BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) has urged MPs to reject the recently gazetted Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2, saying the Bill seeks to strip them of the power to keep the Executive under check, particularly on signing of mining contracts with foreign entities.
In a statement yesterday, Zela said clause 23 of the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill (No 2), which seeks to amend section 327(3) of the Constitution, gave the Executive exclusive powers to approve loan agreements with foreign non-State institutions or entities without being subjected to Parliament and public scrutiny.
Currently, section 327(3)(b) of the Constitution prohibits the State to enter into an agreement which is not an international treaty without the approval of Parliament.
The proposed constitutional amendments, according to Zela, violate section 119 of the Constitution, which provides for Parliament to play its role of promoting democratic governance.
“This may also apply to any government guarantees imposing fiscal obligations on the State. The consequences are drastic.
“What it also means is that the government of Zimbabwe can enter into a loan agreement with Credit Suisse, the Export-Import Bank of China, the China Construction Bank, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China or the African Export-Import Bank without Parliamentary approval since their membership does not include two or more independent States,” Zela
“Most contracts entered by government are with non-State organisations and private entities. Such contracts include multi-million-dollar investment contracts in areas like mining, energy, trade finance and infrastructure, among others.”
The environmental watchdog also raised concern over government’s penchant to hide information on contracts with foreign miners.
It said Zambia proposed a similar amendment through its Constitution (Amendment) Bill No 10 of 2019, which proved to be detrimental in respect of transparency and accountability.
Zela said the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill (No 2) would have adverse effects on the mining industry since Zimbabwe used its minerals as collateral in exchange for lines of credit.
“Without any parliamentary oversight and approval of agreements that impose fiscal obligations on the country, Zimbabwe might further fall into a debt trap drawn from secretive projects that may include punitive repayment terms, certain immunities, or exemptions to foreign companies,” it said.