Leonard Ncube–Victoria Falls Reporter
Cartels and those that collude to unjustifiably increase prices, engage in illegal dealings and manipulating the local currency for their benefit have been put under the microscope, President Mnangagwa has said.
He said this in Victoria Falls yesterday while officially opening the three-day workshop for the Judiciary being hosted by the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) Competition Commission in partnership with the Competition and Tariff Commission of Zimbabwe.
The President said competition law sought to promote competition in all economic sectors and reduce barriers to entry into any sector and creating opportunities for every citizen to participate in economic activities.
“Competition and consumer protection laws, are therefore, key enablers of free, open and liberalised trade between countries and foreign regional integration,” he said.
“Against this backdrop, these laws must continue to enhance consumer interests and the realisation of our country’s development aspirations as set out in the National Development Strategy and Vision 2030.
“To this end, under the radar are the cartels, and all those who collude in promoting unjustified price increases, illicit activities and currency manipulation for the purposes of realising super profits.”
President Mnangagwa challenged participants at the workshop to proffer recommendations that bolster macro-economic measures that have been put in place by Government.
On its part, Government will continue to focus on addressing challenges that impede economic growth and development, said the President.
He further challenged the judiciary to fully acquaint itself with modern competition and consumer protection laws and contribute more towards interpretation of economic policy, which will enhance robust domestic and regional development.
The President said yesterday’s gathering provided the judicial sector an opportunity to review court operations and proffer solutions to the challenges affecting the courts as well as capacitating the judges on the ever-evolving judicial and law ecosystem.
The JSC annually holds an end of term judges’ symposium to reflect on the legal year and plan for the ensuing term, but this year’s edition was framed differently for the Comesa Competition Commission to train members of the bench on competition and consumer protection laws.
Chief Justice Luke Malaba borrowed the idea of a training workshop from Malawi, where the Comesa Competition Commission is based.
The President said the workshop was meant to capacitate the Zimbabwean judges with tools and skills to effectively adjudicate competition cases.
“In our case as Zimbabwe, competition law and the attendant robust policy frameworks are important towards the speedy realisation of Vision 2030, of becoming a prosperous and empowered upper middle income economy.
“This aspiration will be attained through an effective empowered and agile judicial system, which strives for fairness and increased efficiencies across all the productive sectors of the economy.
“It is, therefore, most opportune that this workshop is taking place at the stage when our economy is transitioning from stabilisation to growth.
“To this end judicial staff must be kept updated and knowledgeable about activities taking place in industry and commerce,” said President Mnangagwa.
He said it was gratifying that the judicial sector continued to comply with this constitutional requirement and urged continued investment in human capital development and capacity building programmes as one of the key focus areas under the NDS1.
He said the interpretation and enforcement of such laws must provide market players with rules that regulate and protect effective competition for improved economic welfare and quality of life.
“Legal instruments capacitate judicial officers on the ever evolving nature of competition law and related policies. Legal instruments are in themselves a vital cog and essential pillar towards driving sustainable socio-economic development of our great motherland,” said President Mnangagwa.
“Undoubtedly, judges and other related stakeholders remain key to the interpretation of competition and consumer protection laws.
“The intricate nexus between the interpretation and enforcement of laws across sectors of the economy cannot be overemphasised.
“I, therefore, challenge you participants at this workshop to proffer recommendations to bolster the macro-economic measures that have been put in place by Government.”
He said the judiciary, as one of the arms of the State, should deploy requisite legal and regulatory instruments to scale up implementation of its mandate as interpreters of the law.
“You must be instrumental in consolidating the gains made in the successful transitioning and turning around of the country.
“These laws must continue to enhance consumer interest and the realisation of our country’s development aspirations as set out in the National Development Strategy and Vision 2030,” said the President.
“The judiciary should also address competition issues that arise in disputes before the judicial system. This is pertinent more so that competition law intersects with many fields hence training such as this one is an essential requirement in modern day competition law.”
He said Zimbabwe was determined to play its part to ensure the simplification of trade procedures and elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers in the Comesa free trade area, and the Second Republic will continue to focus on building a modern, industrialised and prosperous Zimbabwe.
The President said enforcement of the Competition Act and Consumer Protection Act, among other pieces of legislation, remained central as one of strategies to spur new enterprises, increase domestic production and improve trade.
He said against this backdrop, national institutions, human resources, laws and policies and other strategies must be harnessed towards enabling a resilient, functional, efficient market.
In her remarks Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Sekai Nzenza said the market had become more dynamic and sophisticated due to sustained industrialization, with industry and commerce witnessing a lot of litigation cases hence the need to bridge the gap and benefit the consumer.
Matabeleland North Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister Richard Moyo said the general populace tends to benefit from these laws while the director and chief executive of COMESA Competition Commission Dr Willard Mwemba competition laws are there to protect new business entrants from unorthodox survival tactics by big players.
Senior judges from the Constitutional, Supreme, Administrative, Labour and High Court are attending the three-day conference which ends today, and are joined by counterparts from Malawi and South Africa, including former judge president of the Competition Appeal Court of South Africa Justice Dennis Davis, and Comesa officials.