Mugabe evokes fake law to protect PSMAS assets

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by Staff Reporter

HARARE:In a case that highlights what a lawless country Zimbabwe has degenerated into, President Robert Mugabe last week evoked the notorious (but now illegal) Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act to bar the creditors of the Premier Service Medical Aid Society (PSMAS) from seizing its assets even though the embattled medical group is not a government entity.

President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe

The government of Zimbabwe last week published regulations, coming into force on July 17, under the Presidential Powers Temporary Measures Act, which will apply provisions of the State Liabilities Act to PSMAS even though the powers are unconstitutional under the country’s new constitution and be beneficiary of these illegal regulations is not a State entity.

The State Liabilities Act lays down that before anyone can sue the State, 60 days notice must be given and that a court cannot order the attachment of State property to pay debts owed by the State.

These regulations apply to any legal proceedings against PSMAS, including proceedings previously launched and pending on by the effective date (July 17).

If the regulations were valid their effect would be that there can be no court-ordered attachment of PSMAS property, or sale of such property in execution, to satisfy debts owed to PSMAS creditors, and legal proceedings against PSMAS to enforce payment of debts owed by it must be preceded by at least 60 days’ notice to PSMAS.

However Veritas, a legal watchdog, insists that the move by Mugabe is illegal.

“Veritas has pointed out in various bulletins since the adoption of the Constitution in 2013, the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act is inconsistent with the Constitution and therefore invalid. That being so, the Act can no longer be invoked as empowering the President to make regulations.”

The group pointed out that another ground for challenging the regulations is that they purport to apply to pending proceedings. “This makes them at least partially retrospective and also amounts to a violation of vested rights which are protected by section 71 of the Constitution.  Yet another ground is that they limit the rights of creditors of PSMAS already adjudicated.”

PSMAS is at risk of closure, as it owes various service providers more than $140 million.