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'Mnangagwa's lockdown rent reprieve illegal'

by Staff reporter
04 May 2020 at 08:19hrs | Views
THE Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has poked holes into government's recent directive deferring payment of rentals and stopping tenant evictions during the lockdown period, saying the move was illegal and likely to be challenged in court.

LSZ in a statement yesterday said while the decision gave a reprieve to the tenants, it condemned landlords and property owners to penury as they were expected to carry their tenants' burdens until the end of the lockdown on May 17.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week proclaimed Statutory Instrument (SI) 96 of 2020, Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) (Deferral of Rent and Mortgage Payments During National Lockdown) Regulations, 2020, giving tenants breathing space to pay their rentals for April and May in instalments after the lockdown.

"It is the LSZ's considered view that the above basis as stated in the preamble to the regulations does not meet the criteria set out in section 2 of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act," LSZ said.

"The situation as given above does not address the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality, public health, the economic interest of Zimbabwe or the general public interest. The situation describes an economic difficulty in respect of a section of the population and only in respect of a section of the national economy. In this regard, therefore, the LSZ believes the regulations are ultra vires the enabling Act."

"It is the LSZ's belief that SI 96 of 2020 would therefore be irrational when measured against the principal law from which it draws its authority."

The lawyers' association said government should have proffered other solutions such as ordering public entities such as power utility Zesa, the Zimbabwe National Water Authority (Zinwa) and local authorities to suspend or defer service charges to cushion the public against the negative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Instead of holistically solving the burden brought about by the lockdown, the SI seeks to take the burden from one citizen and thrust it upon another who may also be suffering the consequences of the lockdown. It is the expectation of the LSZ, its membership and the populace that government will cause public service providers like Zinwa, local authorities and Zesa to suspend or defer charging for their services which are basic needs if the inspiration behind SI 96 of 2020 was to cushion the public against the negative effects of the COVID19 pandemic," the statement read in part.

"The LSZ believes government could have approached this issue in a more holistic manner if indeed the rationale was to reduce the burden of COVID-19 effects on the populace. It is important that during these difficult times and at all times, every State action must be lawful, transparent, compassionate and conform to domestic and international human rights standards."

Harare Residents Trust director Precious Shumba last week said government's intervention lacked depth and revealed widespread contempt for genuine consultation of the citizens and other stakeholders.
Shumba argued that some landlords survived on rentals from their properties, thus deferring payments would condemn them to starvation.

The Insurance and Pensions Commissions (IPEC) also said that the failure by tenants to pay rentals on account of business closure was going to result in a serious reduction in investment income.

IPEC commissioner Grace Muradzikwa, however, told NewsDay recently that they had called on industry to assess the impact and arrange engagements with the government.

Source - newsday