Zuma's stand on FIC bill is incorrect - senior counsel

Cape Town – Two independent members of senior counsel told MPs of the Standing Committee on Finance on Wednesday that President Jacob Zuma’s interpretation of the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Bill is not correct.

The Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Bill will indeed pass constitutional muster, said Advocate Ishmael Semenya SC, who provided a legal opinion on behalf of the Standing Committee on Finance in Parliament.

“We have concluded that the proposed section in the bill... is consistent with the constitution,” Semenya told MPs and stakeholders during public hearings on the bill.

“In view of this, the National Assembly would be perfectly entitled to simply reaffirm the bill in its existing form.”

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However, in an amendment Semenya said: “In the event that the National Assembly wanted to, it could also amend the bill to make expressly clear the limits of the searches under (the relevant) section.”

He suggested including an additional subsection to the proposed section, stating that where inspectors enter premises without a warrant they do so at a reasonable time, on reasonable notice and with respect for and protection of the dignity, freedom, security and personal privacy of the person whose premises are being searched.

Zuma sent the FIC Bill back to Parliament on November 30, because he had reservations about its constitutionality – specifically with regard to the clause that provides for warrantless searches.

The bill was passed by Parliament in May this year and forwarded to Zuma for ratification, but he delayed signing it into law, as he was considering objections raised by, among others, Mzwanele Manyi on behalf of the Progressive Professionals Forum.

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