ONLY four out of 15 Bills, which are critical in improving the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe have been approved in a one-year period, showing that government is still dragging its feet in implementing critical reforms which can benefit the economy.
By Tatira Zwinoira
The four Bills which were passed through parliament during the period are the Deeds Registries Amendment, Movable Property Security Interests, The Joint Ventures and Special Economic Zone Acts.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda informed the Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce (ZNCC) annual congress in Victoria Falls on Wednesday that the delay was a “disappointment”. He blamed the delay on government ministries and the business community.
“The Companies Amendment Bill and the Insolvency Bill, the key instruments to the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe, are taking too long to finalise. This is greatly undermining the pace of accelerating legal reforms on laws that have a strong bearing on the ease of doing business in Zimbabwe,” he said. “There has been no significant movement on the Nssa (National Social Security Authority) Amendment Bill, the Shop Licences Amendment Bill and the Manpower Development Amendment Bill, to name just a few. All these Bills are central to expediting the legislative concerns relating to the ease of doing business.”
He said parliament had not been forceful enough in pursuing the Bills although Section 119(2) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which gives Parliament power to ensure: “… that all the provisions of this Constitution are upheld and that the State and all institutions of government at every level act constitutionally and in the national interest.”
To support the critical bills, a total of 11 Statutory Instruments have been gazetted out of a total of 13 identified for amendment. Additionally, amendments were also made to Bills not listed as critical. These are the Public Procurement and Disposal of Public Assets, Judicial Laws Amendment (Ease of Settling Commercial and Other Disputes) (No. 7 of 2017) and National Competitiveness Commission (No. 6 of 2017) Acts.
The National Competitiveness Act will look at reducing the cost structures in the country.
The amendments were not included as part of the 15 critical Bills as they were introduced after an ease of doing business workshop in May 6 2016 in Bulawayo.
At the meeting, Deputy Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet, Ray Ndhlukula, called upon Parliament members at the workshop to speedily pass the 15 Bills once they had been tabled in parliament.
Apart from the four, the other 11 Bills are the Companies, Small Claims, Commercial Court, High Court, Estate Administration, Insolvency, RBZ Amendment, Shop Licencing, Manpower Development, Nssa, Regional Town and Country Planning Bills.
Mudenda’s revelations seem to contradict what Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa said when he officially opened the ZNCC annual congress on Wednesday.
Mnangagwa said government “was seized with the crafting of an enabling environment which ensures the success of business, industry and commerce”.
“Various reforms across the entire private and public sector are being implemented to improve the ‘ease of doing business’ and create a vibrant industrial and export sector, anchored on productivity,” he said. “The main objectives of undertaking the reforms are to improve the business environment in order to boost foreign direct investment, performance of the public sector institutions in delivering quality service to the people, reduce the cost and enhance the ease of doing business, and create value for money.”
Mnangagwa, who is also in charge of the ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary, has been tasked with ensuring the ease of doing business reforms are implemented.
Mudenda said studies undertaken by the World Trade Organisation in 2011 showed that Zimbabwe imposed too many restrictions on its exporters. The restrictions have resulted in export impediments, lack of cost competitiveness, numerous regulations/permits and their attendant levies, different and scattered offices for export documentation, long periods of processing permits and approvals, leading to loss of customers and potential markets.
“Where we are found wanting as far as executing our legislative mandate is concerned, the citizens of this country must step in,” Mudenda said.
Outdated laws have been cited by many institutions, private stakeholders, donors and investors as stumbling blocks in that they eroded their trust in the investment climate in the country.