Think-tank challenges Presidential Powers

via Think-tank challenges Presidential Powers – NewsDay Zimbabwe January 18, 2016

LEGAL think-tank, Veritas, says the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act is unconstitutional and needs to be repealed.


In its recent post on alignment of 126 laws with the Constitution and the General Laws Amendment Bill which is currently before Parliament, Veritas expressed disappointment that critical unconstitutional laws such as the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act and the Official Secrets Act were not being amended.

“Statutes such as the Official Secrets Act and the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act are so unconstitutional that those statutes will have to be completely re-thought and re-enacted or repealed altogether,” Veritas said in a statement.

“The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act violates Section 134 of the Constitution, which stipulates that Parliament may, in an Act of Parliament, delegate power to make statutory instruments within the scope of and for the purposes laid out in that Act. In addition, the Act violates the principle of separation of powers, according to which the Executive should administer laws rather than make them. The Act needs to be repealed.”

President Robert Mugabe last October invoked the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act and issued Statutory Instrument (SI) 77 of 2015 to force government to take over the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS)’s $144 million debt.

Legislators from across the political divide ganged up against Mugabe, saying they would reject it.

The Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) also issued an adverse report on SI 77 of 2015, saying taking over the debt of a private entity was ultra vires (beyond legal power or authority of) the Constitution and the State Liabilities Act. The matter is still pending in Parliament.

On the Official Secrets Act, which was enacted to prevent official secrets being disclosed to enemies or hostile organisations, Veritas said the law was modelled on British legislation passed 100 years ago during the First World War.

“Because it is a wartime measure, it is far-reaching and imposes draconian penalties. For example, it makes it an offence for a person to whom any information has been entrusted in confidence to disclose the information to anyone without authority. The penalty for doing so is up to 20 years’ imprisonment. The Act violates freedom of expression guaranteed by Section 61 of the Constitution and needs to be revised extensively to bring it in line with the Constitution,” Veritas said.