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PARLIAMENT’S Legal Committee (PLC) has asked the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo, to extend the time frame required to scrutinise the controversial indigenisation and economic empowerment regulations after the committee missed a deadline to submit a report to the House.

The committee is a constitutional watchdog mandated to play an oversight role on any Bill that passes through parliament. Under the Parliamentary Standing Rules and Orders, the PLC must ensure that the regulations do not make “the rights and liberties of persons unduly dependent upon administrative decisions which are not subject to review by a judicial tribunal”.

Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister Saviour Kasukuwere in January gazetted regulations that compel foreign-owned companies to cede a 51% controlling interest to indigenous Zimbabweans. But business and the MDC fear that the new regulations could trigger capital flight.

Committee chairman Obert Gutu on Wednesday confirmed that the five-member committee wrote a letter to Moyo on Tuesday seeking an extension of the period required by law to examine the constitutionality of the empowerment regulations. The legal committee comprises Zanu PF MPs Biata Nyamupinga and Paul Mangwana, and MDC MPs Thandeko Mkandla and Shepherd Mushonga, and Senator Gutu.

“In terms of the House of Assembly Standing Order 205(6), the 26 days expired on March 8 2010,” Gutu said. “So, we have since requested the speaker of the House of Assembly for an extension of time for the Parliamentary Legal Committee to consider the regulations.”

He said the committee failed to meet the deadline after the counsel to parliament left the position vacant a few days after the regulations were gazetted.

Parliament, according to the Chisipite Senator, got a replacement for the lawyer early this month and there was little time for the secretariat to get acquainted with the regulations.

Although there is no precedence of any law that was withdrawn by the seventh parliament, an adverse report by the committee could lead to the withdrawal of the regulations.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai who described the empowerment regulations as null and void last week said there was an “opportunity” to “reverse” the regulations. Tsvangirai on Monday met the Council of Ministers for the third time since the regulations were gazetted. He blames the regulations for lacking full consultation of cabinet.

Meanwhile, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono was this week quoted saying the controversy surrounding the regulations could divert business interest on Zimbabwe to other markets.

“There is also the aspect of bringing controversy on ourselves no sooner after the country held successful investment promotion conferences where various assurances were given by the country’s leadership regarding the sanctity and safety of investment,” Gono said in an interview with a local weekly.

“The last six months have seen a flood of interest in the economy from both friends and foes and we must not disturb the momentum by being reckless, inconsistent and self contradictory with our pronouncements or with what we do.”

The governor, who appeared to be on a collision course with President Robert Mugabe over the regulations, said the “one-size-fits all” approach of the regulations could jeopardise the banking sector which is expected to take a leading role in the empowerment drive.

“But what has to be appreciated is that the collapse of a bank has wider consequences than an individual non-banking institution, so a one-size-fits all ownership structure is not an option that we will support.”

 

Bernard Mpofu

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