In an extraordinary submission on the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment bill, Progressive Professional Forum president and former Cabinet spokesman Jimmy Manyi on Wednesday described it as an attempt to bankrupt the ruling ANC before the next national elections in 2019.
Manyi told MPs the money-laundering bill would be used by unnamed forces to embarrass and blacklist ANC donors “so that when we get to 2019, the ANC is as broke as hell”.
“We are going to have a situation where everyone is tainted by this… We are also going to be embarrassed because of this, this is a dangerous piece of legislation.”
Manyi was reminded by the chairman of Parliament’s standing committee on finance, Yunus Carrim, that the narrow purpose of the hearing was to air submissions on whether President Jacob Zuma’s refusal to sign the bill into law for fear that it was unconstitutional was well-founded and necessitated any chance.
At issue is the president’s submission that section 45(b)(i)(c) would not pass constitutional muster because it allowed for warrantless searches by finance inspectors in certain circumstances.
Zuma’s detractors see in his decision to return the bill to the legislature more than six months after it was approved by the National Assembly a move to protect him and his circle from investigation by finance authorities.
But the PPF and the Black Business Council argued on Wednesday that it would enhance the power of the country’s biggest banks, who they claim continue to serve the interests of a white minority. They made the further argument that investigating money-laundering should be the job of the police, and that allowing the Financial Intelligence Centre to do so gave it excessive powers.
National Treasury has warned that a failure to enact the legislation would earn South Africa a public rebuke from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) when the body meets in February.
In a submission on behalf of National Treasury on Wednesday, Jeremy Gauntlett SC and QC, said Zuma’s objection to the clause allowing warrantless searches was ill-founded, and suggested Parliament MPs leave the bill as is or “neaten” the language to make the limitations on warrantless searches more explicit still.
Ishmael Semenya, who was briefed by Parliament to give an independent legal opinion, was of the same view, saying: “The National Assembly would be perfectly entitled to simply reaffirm it in its current form.”
Semenya argued that the case law citation on which Zuma based his objections was not appropriate as the legal provisions that were struck down by the Constitutional Court in the cases his lawyers referred to were much wider than those in the contested section of the FICA bill, and therefore deemed an impermissible infringement on privacy.
He concurred with senior legal parliamentary law advisor Frank Jenkins that the highest court in the land allowed warrantless searches in narrowly defined circumstances. In this case, the bill allows Financial Intelligence Centre inspectors to carry out searches where the delay applying for a warrant would frustrate the object of the search and they were persuaded that had they approached a court for a warrant, the court would have granted it.
– African News Agency