By Gift Phiri
Globetrotting President Robert Mugabe is yet to approve legislation authorising government to implement the 2017 National Budget.
Already, the country’s 210-member National Assembly has since voted across the political divide to have the Finance Bill and the Appropriation (2017) Bill sent to Mugabe to be signed into law, practically unchanged from when Parliament first debated on them.
The two Bills were sent to Mugabe on March 2 for his assent, following delays by Parliament.
Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda gave notice in a recent government Gazette that the money bills had been transmitted to the president for his assent and signature.
The Appropriation Bill is meant to give legal force to the 2017 National Budget estimates of expenditure while the Finance Bill makes legal provision for changes in collection of revenue such as taxes, custom duties under this year’s national budget.
Once the bills receive presidential assent, government can begin legally implementing the budget, presented to a joint sitting of Parliament by Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa last December.
As the Finance Bill has several provisions backdating tax changes to January 1, the delay in those provisions becoming law could cause legal problems, legal experts have warned.
Mudenda also sent a draft bill which seeks to legalise bond notes the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) Amendment Bill — to Mugabe on March 7.
This comes after Mugabe sought Parliament’s approval to a statutory instrument (SI) to legalise the bond notes.
The SI was valid for only six months, with the envisaged Act now set to give the bond notes constitutional validity after undergoing judicial review and a legislative process in line with the doctrine of parliamentary supremacy.
The development comes after the Zanu PF leader had invoked his executive powers to introduce emergency measures to shore up the surrogate currency, which were meant to trade at par with the American dollar but are dramatically losing value, in a bid to ease a worsening liquidity crunch that has heightened panic in the country.
Although all three Bills are considered urgent, not one has been gazetted as an Act yet.
Mugabe has been out of the country a lot recently, perhaps causing the delays.
His absentee leadership cripples government business given his autocratic stewardship, which sees everything grind to halt each time he is away, with Cabinet and his top ruling party conclaves unable to convene and his deputies unable to take up his responsibilities.
Commenting on Mugabe’s leadership style and its impact on crucial national business, MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said Mugabe has got absolutely no time to attend to serious matters of the State.
“He no longer lives in Zimbabwe, he occasionally visits the country. He is more pre-occupied with globetrotting than running the country. If he was diligent and hands-on enough, the money bills must have been assented to at least two weeks ago.
PDP deputy president Kucaca Phulu added that “the overall language of the various circumstances is that these things must be done without delay”.
Legal and parliamentary watchdog Veritas also said although the president has been out of the country a great deal, it’s not an excuse for needless delays.
“There has, after all, been an acting president, with full power under the Constitution to assent to and sign Bills and have them gazetted as Acts,” it said. Daily News