24 August 2014

Zimbabwe: Millers File Urgent Chamber Application

The Grain Millers Association of Zimbabwe (GMAZ) and the Grain and Oil Seed Traders Association (Gosta) have filed an urgent chamber application seeking to have the operation of Statutory Instrument 122 of 2014 temporarily suspended pending the determination of its constitutionality.

In their urgent chamber application, the two associations said government should be interdicted from acting in terms of the statutory instrument until the finalisation of the matter.

"The applicants have since filed an application with this honourable court wherein the applicants have on behalf of its members, put in issue the constitutional validity of Statutory Instrument (Minimum grain producer prices) regulations 2014 (SI 122 of 2014)," reads the application.

The two applicants said their constituent members would suffer irreparable harm if relief was not granted.

GMAZ and Gosta recently filed a Constitutional Court application challenging the statutory instrument, arguing that it was constitutionally invalid and violated their rights.

This came after an announcement by government that maize producer price had been set at not less than US$390 per tonne for the 2014/15 marketing season with anyone found buying the commodity below the set price threatened with arrest.

Respondents are the Agricultural Marketing Authority, the minister of Agriculture, Mechanisation and Irrigation Development and the Attorney General.

In its founding affidavit, GMAZ cited a number of reasons why they were seeking the courts' intervention ,including the fact that the statutory instrument had the effect of criminalising agreements freely entered into by the applicants' members, farmers and grain producers.

"This points toward the fact that SI 122 of 2014 abridges the fundamental right to freedom of association. This is impermissible by operation of section 134 (b) of the constitution. No statutory instrument can abridge a fundamental right," GMAZ said.

"Furthermore, it is common cause that the second respondent announced the $390 per tonne minimum buying price for maize in April 2014 and such a price was only applicable to the Grain Marketing Board."

An official with GMAZ yesterday said the criminalisation of pre-planting grain price negotiations through the statutory instrument had literally killed contract farming.

He said the case must be heard urgently by the court because the contracting companies had less than 40 days before the commencement of land preparations for the 2014/2015 farming season.

"Any delay will prejudice many expecting farmers as they will miss the forthcoming farming season. The effect of this to national economy and food security will be dire," said the official.

"Minister of Agriculture made an announcement that the government has no capacity to provide for inputs loans to farmers and therefore, private sector must be allowed to come and assist farmers supported by proper legislation."

He said it was inconceivable that wages were subjected to negotiations by concerned parties, but in this case, one person, the minister of agriculture, dictated the incomes of producers who deal with more than US$400 million worth of grains.


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