Labour bodies hail SEZs Bill rejection
LABOUR bodies yesterday applauded President Mugabe for throwing back to Parliament the Special Economic Zones (SEZs) Bill so that it can conform to provisions of the country’s labour regulations.
The President rejected the Bill, which is expected to unlock increased investment, and sent it back to Parliament after expressing reservations about a clause that seeks to suspend the Labour Act whose effect would have exposed workers to serious abuse by employers.
Parliament now has to meet again next week to consider reservations expressed by the Head of State.
Zimbabwe Federation of Trade Union (ZFTU) president Mr Wilfred Makwarimba said the President’s stance shows his appreciation of the welfare of workers.
“We had written to the Presidency complaining about this Bill. We queried why Parliament approved it like that as we felt compromising the Labour Act was not the answer.
“So our Parliament wanted to protect foreign investors at the expense of our workers. Luckily the President has rejected it and it’s a pleasure to us. It shows President Mugabe is worker conscious,” said Mr Makwarimba.
He said Parliament should admit it erred in approving a Bill that works against the country’s laws for the sake of pleasing foreigners.
“We cannot make a law and compromise it ourselves. That’s not reasonable. Investors who come here need to adhere to our laws and not want to impose theirs.
‘‘As workers we were waiting to see how His Excellency would handle this and we thank him for protecting workers.
‘‘We’re extremely happy about that. It shows President Mugabe is a good leader,” said Mr Makwarimba.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Union (ZCTU) president Mr George Nkiwane also heaped praise on President Mugabe.
“This is an exciting development and that’s what we expected as workers. If workers complain, a good Government should respond positively,” he said.
“That Bill was going to subject workers to slavery by investors and we cannot accept that. We held meetings with stakeholders on that and we agreed to oppose this and gladly the Government has shown preparedness to accept our reservations.”
The SEZs Bill becomes the first proposed law to be referred back to Parliament by the President during the life of the Eighth Parliament.
The Speaker of the National Assembly, Advocate Jacob Mudenda, had announced that the Bill was awaiting the President’s assent after it sailed through both the National Assembly and Senate.
The Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, confirmed that President Mugabe referred the Bill back.
It is understood that President Mugabe cited section 56 of the Bill, which he said was not consistent with section 65 of the Constitution as it sought to suspend operations of the labour laws in special economic zones.
Section 56 of the Bill provides as follows: “The Labour Act [Chapter 28:01] and the Indigenisation Economic Empowerment Act [Chapter 14:33] shall not apply in relation to licensed investors operating in a special economic zone.”
SEZs are geographical areas administered by one oversight management body offering special investment and trade incentives to firms that establish themselves in the designated zones.