PPF vows to fight FICA in ConCourt

Cape Town - The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) promised to challenge the newly approved FICA bill in the Constitution Court as it believes the law gives undue powers to South Africa's banking sector.

President Jacob Zuma signed the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (FICA) bill into law on Saturday morning. The 2001 Act and other related acts aim to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

PPF spokesperson Luther Lebelo told News24 that the organisation supports the bills' aim to combat crime, but wants to ensure the rights of their members is not discarded.

He said the organisation will write to Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba to postpone the implementation of the Act and, if unsuccessful, take the matter to the Constitutional Court.

"We have a number of concerns with the bill. One of it is that it abolishes the current council, the counter money laundering council on which several parties including the Reserve Bank sits. Inspectors will now be accountable to the banks," Lebelo said.

"It gives banks the power to make the determination on suspicious transactions. It means that banks can freeze bank accounts where it sees fits and hence takes away the objectivity of the previous council."

Freezing bank accounts

Lebelo said the legislation also creates a new category called prominent influential person (PIP) which provides grounds for banks to freeze bank accounts.

"If a bank decides someone is a PIP they can freeze a bank account for three months. That person as no recourse to turn over that decision. If you are running a small business your business now runs at risk," Lebelo said.

"Also, if your name is leaked to the media, popular opinion changes against you and people think that you are corrupt without due procedure… [the Constitution says] you cannot be guilty until you are proved guilty."

The PPF publically states that it supports the ruling African National Congress, but Lebelo said their concern over FICA is not politically motivated.

"We have been consistent: PPF supports the current bill against money laundering, the funding terrorist acts etc, but all we are saying is that we have a Constitution and we think this bill violate people's personal constitutional rights."

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