Chamisa in rare support for government says Parliament should not give people a bomb disguised as a cake


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Kuwadzana East Member of Parliament Nelson Chamisa has applauded the government for coming up with the Labour Amendment Bill especially the controversial aspect that the remuneration of workers fired after the 17 July Supreme Court ruling that employers could dismiss workers on three months’ notice was retrospective.

Chamisa, who was part of the legal team for Zuva Petroleum which won the Supreme Court ruling which resulted in companies firing about 20 000 workers in three weeks, said his support for the bill did not mean that he had changed sides politically. He was simply doing what was right to protect workers.

“Parliament has a duty to make sure that our people are not given a bomb disguised as a cake and that our people are not given thorns disguised as roses,” he said.

“We want to make sure that we go to the bottom of this matter. In fact, I would have problems if any hon. Member of Parliament who has a constituency and people whom they represent were to say we are supposed to then deal away with retrospectivity because that is the necessary assurance of security that we can give to our people. I want to thank the Minister for that one. Hon. Minister, thank you for the wisdom to retrospectively apply it in terms of the law,” Chamisa said.

The Parliamentary Legal Committee which has two lawyers from the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front and one from the Movement for Democratic Change had issued an adverse report on the bill especially the retrospective aspect which the committee argued violated the country’s constitution.

“Madam Chair, in terms of the law, we are not violating any law. I have studied law competently and I can tell you one thing. Parliament, both in the Constitution and at common law, is allowed to make the law to the extent that we are not subtracting from any vested rights,” Chamisa said.

“And, I have no doubt that as Parliament, at common law, in terms of this Constitution, I would want anybody including even lawyers from another planet to come and convince me that there is anything that is being done that violates the Constitution.

“There is a common law presumption against applying the law retrospectively, but it is altered once the Parliament chooses to explicitly say a certain law has to apply retrospectively like we have done. So, for that simple reason, Madam Chair, I do not see any reason why we should have problems.

“This is not the first time we have done this. We did this when we dealt with our war veterans, when we adopted the War Veterans Act. We did this even in terms of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act. If you remember what we did with Section 44, it was implemented retrospectively to September 2009. We did this with our Land Reform Programme because it was a noble project, in the public interest.”

 

Full contribution:

 

MR. CHAMISA: Thank you very much Madam Chair. I want to preface my contribution by saying that it is a very unusual position for me to agree with a Minister from Government. You know that I always differ with my Ministers here but on this one, I associate with the wisdom of the Minister in making sure that the element of remuneration for the affected workers is retrospective. I associate with the pronouncements of the Head of State to say that we must go back to retrospectively deal with the mischief of the law -[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-

THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, order in the House. Hon. member, if you can please address the Chair?

MR. CHAMISA: Thank you Madam Chair. I am saying this Madam Chair, realising that there are circumstances where you have to distinguish what is distinguishable. We are a Parliament, the sovereign embodiment of the wishes and interests of the people and our duty is to go a little level higher in terms of how we look at our laws. We have the duty to make laws and the courts have the duty to interpret the laws. If the courts choose to interpret laws how-so-ever they choose to interpret them, we have a duty as the Parliament, being the repositories, custodians and reservoirs of the people’s interests to make sure that we safeguard those interests. This has nothing to do with votes because there is no vote to be taken nationally. It has all to do with what we fought for during the liberation struggle -[HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections]-

THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, order. Can the hon. Member proceed?

MR. CHAMISA: Thank you Madam Chair. I am saying this advisedly and I may need to emphasise my point. What we are  beginning to see is something that goes to the very heart of what our war of independence was all about. It goes to the very crux of why we lost blood in this country and why we had sweat and toiling in this country – protecting our own indigenous people against the vagaries of capital.

When I debate this, I debate it with the full knowledge that I have not switched on political sides. I believe in the independence of our country, in the liberation of our country and I believe that what the Minister is doing is what is best under the circumstances. I would want to immediately correct my sister Hon. Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga who says that Section 70 (1) k – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.]-

THE CHAIRPERSON: Hon. member, address the Chair.

MR. CHAMISA: Okay Madam Chair. Section 70 (1) k of the Constitution which she relies upon to say you cannot do things retrospectively. With all due respect Madam Chair, it actually relates to accused persons and it has nothing to do with circumstances such as these which are sui generis cases. These are cases of a special nature wherein people have respected the common law position for such a long time but then they seem to sneak in their interests out of the interpretation that has been given by the court.

Parliament has a duty to make sure that our people are not given a bomb disguised as a cake and that our people are not given thorns disguised as roses. We want to make sure that we go to the bottom of this matter. In fact, I would have problems if any hon. Member of Parliament who has a constituency and people whom they represent were to say we are supposed to then deal away with retrospectivity because that is the necessary assurance of security that we can give to our people. I want to thank the Minister for that one. Hon. Minister, thank you for the wisdom to retrospectively apply it in terms of the law.

Madam Chair, in terms of the law, we are not violating any law. I have studied law competently and I can tell you one thing. Parliament, both in the Constitution and at common law, is allowed to make the  law to the extent that we are not subtracting from any vested rights. And, I have no doubt that as Parliament, at common law, in terms of this Constitution, I would want anybody including even lawyers from another planet to come and convince me that there is anything that is being done that violates the Constitution. There is a common law presumption against applying the law retrospectively, but it is altered once the Parliament chooses to explicitly say a certain law has to apply retrospectively like we have done. So, for that simple reason, Madam Chair, I do not see any reason why we should have problems. This is not the first time we have done this. We did this when we dealt with our war veterans, when we adopted the War Veterans Act. We did this even in terms of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe Act. If you remember what we did with Section 44, it was implemented retrospectively to September 2009. We did this with our Land Reform Programme because it was a noble project, in the public interest – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] – For us Madam Chair, to fail to see – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections.] –

THE CHAIRPERSON: Order, order please!

MR. CHAMISA: I genuinely believe Madam Chair and hon. members, that the effect of the Bill has been to expose our employees and workers, hardworking workers to the vagaries and vicissitudes of capital. We need to make sure that we do it in the interest of our liberation ethos and Section 55 of the Labour Act. We need to make sure that we defend our people – [HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear.] – and we can only do so by adopting what Hon. Kereke has already said, that we need to just override the aspect of this adverse report. In fact, there is nothing adverse about it. We need to make sure that we confirm, in the interest of fairness and in the separation of powers that as Parliament, we continue to adopt that retrospective element.

Madam Chair, having said that, I believe that this will enrich the debate of those who are going to support but also dissuade and demobilize those who have been visited by a very dangerous feeling to go against our workers. Thank you very much – [HON. MEMBERS: Inaudible interjections].

(431 VIEWS)

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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.

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