The new political dispensation has been making concerted efforts to re-engage the international community in order to attract the much-needed foreign direct investment inflows. This is highly commendable because there is no dispute about the desperate need for international capital to revive our economic fortunes.
guest column: John Makamure
In addition to the mantra, “Zimbabwe is open for business”, the government has been implementing ease of doing business reforms with support from development partners.
These have focused on licencing procedures, tax registration, social security registration, access to credit, among others. In the 2019 National Budget statement presented to Parliament on November 22, Finance minister Mthuli Ncube proposed speeding up of ease of doing business reforms, including the long-awaited operationalisation of the Zimbabwe Investment and Development Agency (Zida). Borrowed from the successful Rwanda Development Board, the Zida will bring together key institutions such as the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Companies and Deeds Registry and Immigration in order to speed up investment processing.
The minister challenged parliamentary portfolio committees to play their oversight role in order to ensure that the nation does not pay lip service to the ease of doing business, as the country was in competition for investment with other investment destinations.
The Transitional Stabilisation Plan is the current policy instrument to promote investment and revive the economy. The immediate objective of the plan is macro and fiscal stabilisation and, laying a solid foundation for attaining the triple “S” growth — strong, sustainable and shared.
The Minister of Finance is correct that such growth has to be anchored on good governance and promotion of democratic principles, equitable access to means and outcomes of production, as well as modern infrastructure that supports day-to-day socio-economic activities. “Upholding good governance and democracy, as enshrined in our Constitution will facilitate our transformation to the desired upper middle income status,” the minister said in the budget statement.
What underpins good governance and a democratic society are key principles of transparency, accountability and responsiveness. Citizens must feel that their voices matter in decision-making. So fundamental rights such as freedom of association and assembly, freedom of expression and the media, and access to information must remain sacrosanct. The Members of Parliament must ensure that these fundamental human rights, as provided for in Chapter 4 of the Constitution, are fully promoted and protected. They must move with speed to ensure enabling legislation to promote these rights are fully aligned to the Constitution. Alignment of the Public Order and Security Act (Posa), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (Aippa) and Broadcasting Services Act should, therefore, be a priority for the Ninth Parliament.
The Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services minister Monica Mutsvangwa has been engaging the media and making public pronouncements on the need to review legislation pertaining to the media and access to information. This is a very good start which the relevant portfolio committee of parliament must seize upon, and proactively submit well-thought-out recommendations for amendment of the Acts.
There is nothing to fear because government has already listed these pieces of legislation among those to be aligned with the letter and spirit of the Constitution.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Ziyambi Ziyambi recently told the Press that the thrust would be to create an environment where capital “feels safe” and an environment where there is rule of law. The Finance minister was categorical about what needs to be done to these two pieces of legislation when he said in the budget statement:
“Accordingly, the alignment of the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act to the Constitution is work in progress, with the responsible ministry currently seized with the matter for deliberation through due process”.
For Posa, there is already a Constitutional Court (ConCourt) ruling against section 27 of the Act. Under this section, the police officer in command of each police district can temporarily prohibit the holding of public demonstrations within particular police districts if a regulating authority for any area believes, on reasonable grounds, that there might be public disorder, a breach of the peace or an obstruction of any thoroughfare. Section 24 stipulates that the regulating authority must be notified of an intention to hold any public gatherings. The ConCourt in October 2017 ruled that section 27 failed to pass the test on fairness, necessity and reasonableness. Further, the ConCourt found it disturbing that section 27 has no time frame or limitation as to the number of times the regulating authority can invoke the powers granted to him or her under the section. The ConCourt reasoned that a regulating authority could lawfully invoke these powers without end by publishing notices prohibiting demonstrations back-to-back, as long as each time the period of the ban is for one month or less.
Thus, the ConCourt ruled that section 27 has the potential of negating or nullifying the rights not only completely, but perpetually.
Parliament should therefore simply exercise its power as provided for in section 130 of the Constitution. This provision says in the exercise of its legislative authority, both the Senate and National Assembly have the power to initiate, prepare, consider or reject any legislation. Parliament should push for a holistic approach in making the investment environment friendly.
John Makamure is the executive director of the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust