Should Zim be run by statutory instruments?

HARARE - This week, the Environmental Management Agency gave manufacturers and users of polystyrene material up to three months to comply with Statutory Instrument (SI) 84 of 2012, which prohibits the use of kaylites.

SI 84 had caused a major uproar countrywide, with manufacturers of kaylites and retailers raising the red flag, saying the ban could lead to job losses and price increases.

A few weeks earlier, producers of maize-meal, flour, sugar and cooking oil were up in arms with the  Health ministry over SI 120 of 2016 which compels them to add specific nutrients to their products, amid concerns that the additional costs could lead to a wave of price increases.

Last year, there was debate around SI 64 of 2016 that seeks to protect local industries and penalise imports.

These were not the only SIs Zimbabweans have been bombarded within a short space of time. There has been a flurry of them, and the rate at which government is resorting to these instruments is alarming.

An SI, or delegated legislation, is basically a legislative maneouvre allowing government to move legislation through Parliament more quickly than passing a new Act, which might take months of legislative back-and-forth.

While they are a necessary evil, at times, because they save so much of Parliament’s time for more important matters and since the National Assembly benefits from the specialist knowledge of various individuals and organisations, in our case there has been an overkill so much that it is now difficult to keep track of the current law.

The outcry over their introduction points to lack of adequate consultations and research on the part of the government agencies and ministries concerned before their promulgation hence concerns that they could be ultra vires existing laws.

It also brings to the fore how we are governed, as a country, whereby somebody just decides overnight without considering the implications on those affected.

This is why Bishop Tudor Bismark of New Life Covenant Church makes the point, in one of his video clips circulating on social media, that Zimbabwe is not a speed boat which can be swayed by its driver in any direction, and without consultations.

The ideal thing is that all laws must go through Parliament. In the event that .an SI becomes necessary, it is critical that proper research, backed by scientific evidence, be done. In implementing the instruments, government must also allow for a smooth transition, with minimal disruptions to lives.

The fact these SIs are not going through Parliament makes us question their legitimacy; the effectiveness of the legislative assembly, and our observance of international best practices.

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