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Will Zimbabwe Parly Pass Proposed Labour Law Violating Constitution?

Speaker of Parliament of Zimbabwe, Jacob Mudenda.

Parliament’s lower house, the House of Assembly, was last night expected to pass the Labor Amendment Bill, which seeks to repeal common law provisions that have been used by employers to fire thousands of workers on three months’ notice without terminal benefits.

The national assembly earlier in the day overturned a ruling by its Parliamentary Legal Committee led by Zanu PF legislator, Fortune Chasi, that said the bill contravened the country’s constitution in a section where it stipulates that the law would be implemented in retrospect, meaning those workers who have already been fired will find recourse when the amendments are implemented.

Most Zanu PF lawmakers led by Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) Members of Parliament led by Kuwadzana East’s Nelson Chamisa opposed Chasi’s ruling saying parliament needed to pass laws that protect workers.

Ironically, Chamisa was part of the legal team that secured the Supreme Court decision that led to the indiscriminate firing of workers.

Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the MDC formation led by Professor Welshman Ncube said the decision to overturn the legal committee’s adverse report was not wise, adding it would backfire in future.

She warned fellow lawmakers against taking populist decisions that would hound the same workers they seek to protect.

Almost all lawmakers, who contributed to the debate agreed that there is need for swift action to stop the job cuts while noting that workers must be fairly compensated for services rendered during their employment tenure.

The fouling Clause 18 of the Amendment Bill stipulates that every employee, whose services were terminated on three months’ notice on or after July 17th this year, must be compensated.

The Parliamentary Legal Committee argued that the clause appears to nullify the Supreme Court ruling, thus violating Section 3 (2) (e) of the constitution on the separation of powers.

According to the state-controlled Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, lawmakers nullified the committee’s report, giving the Minister of Labour a chance to present the bill in its original form for subsequent mandatory readings before parliament.
The bill will be read three times in parliament before being taken to the Senate this Thursday.

More than 20,000 workers have been fired since the July 17th Supreme Court ruling which allowed employers to fire workers on three months’ notice.