Parly committee rules Mugabe off-side on PSMAS

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by TZN Correspondent

THE Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) has ruled that President Robert Mugabe did not follow the law when he invoked a law meant to protect assets of State enterprises from seizure by creditors in his desperate effort to cover the troubled Premier Services Medical Aid Society two months ago.

It its report, the PLC which is chaired by MDC-T legislator, Jessie Majome, ruled that Mugabe had behaved illegally by invoking the State Liabilities Act to stop PSMAS’ creditors—who are collectively owed more than $140 million—in order to stop the creditors from seizing the medical group’s assets.

On September 24, the Speaker of the House of Assembly, Jacob Mudenda, acknowledged receipt of the adverse report from the legislative body’s lawyers.

Harare West MDC-T legislator Jessie Majome

Harare West MDC-T legislator Jessie Majome

On July 17, Mugabe issued a Statutory instrument barring PSMAS’ creditors from attaching its assets over unpaid debts. He based his orders on the State liabilities Act, even though PSMAS is not a government entity.

“While the adverse report does not nullify the Statutory Instrument, the SI may eventually be repealed, depending on whether the National Assembly confirms or rejects the adverse report,” said Veritas, a legal and legislative watchdog.

In August, reported that Mugabe had resorted to using a fake law to protect the assets of PSMAS—which provides medical aid to virtually all civil servants—from seizure.

At the time, the government of Zimbabwe published regulations, coming into force on July 17, under the Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act, which purported to apply provisions of the State Liabilities Act to cover PSMAS even though the powers are unconstitutional under the country’s new constitution and be beneficiary of these illegal regulations is not a State entity.

The State Liabilities Act lays down that before anyone can sue the State, 60 days notice must be given and that a court cannot order the attachment of State property to pay debts owed by the State.

These regulations apply to any legal proceedings against PSMAS, including proceedings previously launched and pending on by the effective date (July 17).

If the regulations were valid their effect would be that there can be no court-ordered attachment of PSMAS property, or sale of such property in execution, to satisfy debts owed to PSMAS creditors, and legal proceedings against PSMAS to enforce payment of debts owed by it must be preceded by at least 60 days’ notice to PSMAS.

However Veritas, insists that the move by Mugabe is illegal.

It pointed out that since the adoption of the Constitution in 2013, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act is inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore invalid. That being so, the Act can no longer be invoked as empowering the President to make regulations.”

The group pointed out that another ground for challenging the regulations was that they purport to apply to pending proceedings. “This makes them at least partially retrospective and also amounts to a violation of vested rights which are protected by section 71 of the Constitution.  Yet another ground is that they limit the rights of creditors of PSMAS already adjudicated.”

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