President Emmerson Mnangagwa acted within the law when he gazetted pensions and retirement benefits due to a former Head of State and Government, legal experts have reaffirmed.
The benefits were published last week in an Extraordinary Government Gazette in terms of Presidential Pension and Retirement Benefits (Services and Facilities for former Presidents) Notice, 2017.
Former President Robert Mugabe is expected to be the inaugural beneficiary of the entitlements, while former Vice President Joice Mujuru is enjoying relevant benefits as outlined in Statutory Instrument 86 of 2015.
The Statutory Instrument outlining Dr Mujuru’s benefits reads in part: “A former Vice President of Zimbabwe who has at any time since December 1987 been Vice President of Zimbabwe for at least one full term of office, shall be entitled to use and enjoyment of the following services, facilities and allowances — (i) a domestic worker; (ii) a gardener; (iii) two drivers; (iv) a private secretary; (v) a close security unit officer; (vi) two aide-de-camp officers and (b) the use of (i) a Mercedes-Benz motor vehicle; (ii) a colour television set; (iii) an official office and telephone and (c) an allowance (i) covering medical aid contributions and (ii) for air travel (once a year).”
Constitutional law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku said there was nothing amiss with President Mnangagwa’s actions.
“The main issues of benefits and allowances are already specified in the Presidential Pensions and Retirement Benefits Act. Section 3 of that Act lists benefits and allowances that are due to a former President and what is only left to the sitting President to determine is the quantum of those benefits, which is what was gazetted last week,” he said.
The allowances and services to which former Presidents and surviving spouses are entitled to as listed in the Act are: (a) domestic service; (b) security service; (c) transport; (d) air travel; (e) medical service; (f) office accommodation; (g) secretarial services; (h) entertainment allowance and other services or facilities.
Professor Madhuku said the law also required the President to table the Statutory Instrument in Parliament within 14 days from the day it resumes sitting.
“The President is only given a limited role to determine the quantum of the benefits and can only be questioned on that and not on whether a former President deserves it or not as the public debate seems to be suggesting,” Professor Madhuku added.
He also said apart from that, Section 102 (3) (a) and (3) (b) of the Constitution provided for the benefits of former Presidents and Vice Presidents.
Professor Madhuku said President Mnangagwa’s gazetting of benefits for former Presidents was similar to Statutory Instrument 86 of 2015, gazetted by former President Robert Mugabe setting out benefits for former Vice Presidents.
Minister of State for Mashonaland Central Provincial Affairs Advocate Martin Dinha concurred, saying the gazetting of the benefits was in line with the law.
“Speaking as a lawyer, I categorically submit that the promulgation of the notice by President Mnangagwa as set out in terms of Section 3(1) of the Presidential Pension and Retirement Benefits Act was done aboveboard. The law is clear on this aspect and was in existence prior to the notice. So anyone saying the matter should have gone to Parliament or any other authority is ignorant of the law,” he said.
Advocate Dinha said the only question was whether the provisions in the notice were justifiable or in tandem with regional and international practices.
“What the President set is provided for by the law and reasonable and justifiable. The limited number of cars, the scaled down security and even the total cost of the package speak to the great consideration Government put to match the exit package and the situation in the country,” Advocate Dinha said.
The benefits gazetted then included a State-funded domestic worker, a gardener, two drivers, a private secretary, a close security unit officer, two aide-de-camp officers, use of a Mercedes-Benz motor vehicle, a colour television set, an official office and telephone in addition to medical aid and air travel allowances. – Herald