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Parly set to fast-track key Bills

Africa Moyo Business Reporter
PARLIAMENT resumed sitting yesterday after a brief adjournment, amid high hopes that legislators will fast- track several Bills regarded as urgent such as the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Zisco) Debt Assumption Bill and the Insolvency Bill.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, reportedly asked for approval to “fast-track” the Electoral Amendment Bill and it was hoped that the request may be extended to other Bills such as the Insolvency Bill and the Shop Licences Amendment Bill.

Other Bills set for debate, and possible fast-tracking include the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, which is crucial in transforming the local mining landscape particularly regards the decriminalisation of gold possession.

Together with the Insolvency Bill and Shop Licences Amendment Bill, the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill falls under the category of laws identified by Government as critical in improving the ease of doing business in the country.

The Shop Licencing Act seeks to waive the need to advertise by businesspersons who are operating in the correct zone.

At the moment, people are supposed to advertise twice even when they are doing business in the correct zone.

This requirement to advertise has created a turnaround time of almost 50 to 60 days but when the law has been amended, the timeframe would be slashed to about five days.

But the Zisco Debt Assumption Bill is also crucial since it holds levers to the conclusion of negotiations aimed at reviving the Redcliff based firm.

Minister of Industry, Commerce and Enterprise Development Dr Mike Bimha, recently told The Herald that all parliamentarians were aware of the expectations regarding the Zisco Debt Assumption Bill “and does not see anyone who may want to delay its passage”.

The Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) has already given the Zisco Debt Assumption Bill a non-adverse report, setting the stage for its Second Reading.

Through the Zisco Debt Assumption Bill, Government wants to assume the company’s almost $495 million debt to clean its balance sheet and make it attractive to investors.

The debt will only be hived off once validation and reconciliation processes have been done.

Government is keen to clear Zisco’s balance sheet to enable a Chinese firm, R & F Company which has expressed interest in ploughing $1 billion into the resuscitation of the steel giant, to start on a clean slate.

Finance and Economic Development Portfolio Committee chairperson David Chapfika, recently said several investors have made enquiries with a view to reviving Zisco but have been turned off due to its huge debt burden.

“Financial statistical obligation is officially transferred from one part to the other and in this case the Zisco Steel debt will be taken over by the Government of Zimbabwe through legislation process,” said Mr Chapfika.

Parliament begun public hearings in Harare, Kwekwe, Gweru and Bulawayo, towards the end of March.

The hearings sought to solicit the public’s views on the Zisco Debt Assumption Bill.

Government wants to ensure that the wealthy Chinese investor – R and F Company – sees through its investment proposal into Zisco.

R and F Company president Mr Zhang Li – who visited Zimbabwe in August last year – said when the project eventually kicks-off, their investment would rise to $2 billion.

The revival of Zisco, which has an illustrious history dating back to 1942 when the colonial regime set up the Rhodesian Iron and Steel Commission (RISCOM) to take over all iron and steel production in the country, is crucial for economic turnaround as it has linkages with several critical companies and downstream industries.

SOURCE: THE HERALD

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