Parliament 'obliged' to finalise Fica before holidays - Casac

Cape Town – The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac) pressed Parliament to urgently finalise the Finance Intelligence (FIC) Bill before the legislature adjourns on Friday for the December holidays.  

Casac's Lawson Naidoo wrote a letter to Yunus Carrim, chairperson of the standing committee on finance, saying the organisation does not support President Jacob Zuma’s reservations about the bill, reported Fin24's sister publication Netwerk24. Casac encouraged Parliament to resolve the matter without delay. 

The organisation even argued that Parliament should omit the sections Zuma is concerned about so as make sure the bill is signed into law as soon as possible. 

A further delay in the FIC Bill, Naidoo said, will have serious implications for South Africa in that the country will be placed on a watch list if it does not comply with international legislation that stops illicit flows of money, such as money-laundering and money appropriated to finance terrorism. 

South Africa is a member of the Financial Action Task Force, and its membership may ultimately be suspended if it doesn’t conform to international standards to combat money-laundering and illicit financial activities. 

On Wednesday morning, National Treasury will make a presentation to the finance committee with its own legal adviser to address the issues of the perceived unconstitutionality. 

Zuma sent the FIC Bill back to Parliament on November 30, because he had reservations about its constitutionality. 

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, Mzwandile Manyi on behalf of the Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF). 

The draft legislation will require a senior bank official to approve the accounts of prominent influential persons and oblige banks to to establish the source of funds, as well as monitor these accounts on a regular basis. 

Prominent influential persons would include top government officials from the president down to municipal managers, as well as company chairpersons, CEOs and chief financial officers and individuals who do business with the state, including their immediate family, partners and business associates.

The PPF argued in its letter to Zuma that the FIC Amendment Bill violates the constitutional rights of affected South African citizens – the so-called domestic prominent influential persons and their families and associates. 

The PPF was also concerned that the draft legislation would transfer the judicial authority from law enforcement agencies into the hands of banking and financial institutions. 

PPF secretary general Siphile Buthelezi also wrote to Carrim, reiterating that the bill is unconstitutional and requesting to be allowed to make a representation to Parliament on the matter. 

Carrim said in a speech in Parliament on Tuesday that the standing committee on finance would not tremble and buckle “just because the president's lawyers said it's unconstitutional”. 

Said Carrim: "If the presidency's lawyers are wrong, they're wrong."

Democratic Alliance MP David Maynier said it was highly suspicious that the bill had been sent to back to Parliament, and that this is in all likelihood “another delaying tactic”.

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