Farirai Machivenyika, Harare Bureau
President Mnangagwa has assented to three new laws aimed at guiding the Government’s political and economic reform agenda.
The three laws are the Maintenance of Peace and Order Act (MOPA) (Chapter 11:23), the Companies and Other Business Act (Chapter 24:31) and the Microfinance Act (Chapter 11:24).
The three laws are part of Government’s endeavour to open up democratic space and simplify business operations in the country.
The Companies and Other Business Entities Act and MOPA are contained in an extraordinary Government Gazette published on November 15 under General Notice 2073 of 2019.
“The following laws, which have been assented to by His Excellency the President, are published in terms of subsection (6) of section 131 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe-Companies and Other Entities Act and MOPA,” reads the notice published by the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, Dr Misheck Sibanda.
The Microfinance Act is contained in Extraordinary Government Gazette published on Tuesday under General Notice 2074 of 2019.
The MOPA provides “for the maintenance of peace, order and security to ensure the enjoyment of rights and freedoms by any persons and in particular to make provision for peaceful conduct of gatherings in a manner that protects the right of freedom of assembly, association, demonstration and petitioning without prejudicing the rights and freedoms of others.”
Section 3 of the Act designates the police officer commanding a police district as the regulating authority of that district and spells out procedures the conveners of gatherings or demonstrations have to follow when applying to the regulating authorities.
Section 4 empowers a regulating authority to prohibit the possession of weapons such as catapults, machetes, knobkerries, swords, knives or daggers in public or concealed if the authority believes there is likely to be a breach of peace.
Section 5 requires conveners of demonstrations to appoint a person “responsible for the arrangements of that demonstration and to be present thereat, to give notice in terms of section 7 and to act on its behalf at any consultations or negotiations contemplated in section 8, or in connection with any procedure contemplated in this Act at which his or her presence is required.”
Section 7 provides for the timelines within which a convener of public meetings, public demonstrations and processions has to give notice to the regulating authority before proposed date of the public meeting, public demonstration or procession.
Section 8 provides for instances when consultations, negotiations and amendment of notices can be made prior to holding of processions, public demonstrations and public meetings so as to avoid public disorder.
The Act also exempts professional, religious, recreational, sporting or charitable gatherings from provisions requiring giving notices to the police or appointing conveners of the said gatherings.
Section 10 of the Act prohibits gatherings within 20 metres of parliament, 100 metres of the vicinity of the Supreme Court, High Court, Magistrates or any other court.
However, this provision does not apply to gatherings for which seven days’ prior notice has been given to the Speaker of the National Assembly, the Chief Justice, the Judge President or any responsible authority.
In Section 18, the President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Defence Forces, has power to authorise the deployment of the Defence Forces for the purpose of suppressing any civil commotion or disturbance in any police district
The Companies and Other Entities Act repeals the Companies Act that had been in the statute books since 1951 and will modernise registration and management of companies.
Features covered in the Act include: “(a) Provision for the issuance of non–par–value shares rather than shares with a fixed value, together with provisions for the valuation of no-par-value share, (b) the introduction of an electronic registry for the incorporation and registration of domestic and foreign companies and private business corporations (c) to update and modernise the Companies Registry by re-registering all existing companies and PBCs and removing all defunct companies and PBCs within 12 months of the date of commencement of the Act (d) the substitution of criminal penalties by civil penalties wherever possible (e) to establish an inspectorate to better enforce the provisions of this Act.”
The Microfinance Act has streamlined the organisations to credit-only micro financiers and deposit-taking micro financiers, omitting money-lenders.
A Microfinance Advisory Council will also be established and its duties include advising the minister (responsible for finance) on policies to develop micro-finance business, promote prudent financial practice among microfinance institutions and any other function the minister may confer.