Rebate law sparks legal dispute

Daniel Nemukuyu Senior Court Reporter
Statutory Instrument 148 of 2015 which only grants the $200 travellers’ rebate on customs duty to people travelling in buses without luggage trailers and takes away the privilege from those in buses towing trailers, has sparked a legal dispute with some describing it as a violation of constitutional rights. In terms of the instrument, travellers in private vehicles and those in buses that do not have trailers can enjoy the rebate on their imported goods at the borders, but those in buses pulling trailers are regarded as traders who are not entitled to the rebate.

The statutory instrument judges the travellers’ purpose of visit through the type of vehicle they will be using, thereby creating a dispute on the fairness of the mechanism considering that anyone is free to get into any bus of their choice.

Most buses now tow trailers because there is another legal requirement barring the use of traditional rooftop luggage carriers, hence transport operators are crying foul over loss of business as travellers now shun their buses.

Jay Jay Travel and Tours, which operates cross-border buses, has written to the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development threatening to sue Government over the piece of legislation if the Statutory Instrument is not struck off.

The company wants Government to revisit the law and amend it or completely remove it from the statutes.

In a letter of demand authored by Mr Alex Majachani of Mberi Chimwamurombe Legal Practice, Jay Jay Travel and Tours gave the Ministry of Finance a 14-day ultimatum to either struck the law down or to amend it in line with the supreme law of the country.

“Should we not hear from your Ministry within 14 days of receiving this letter on positive steps to repeal and or amend the Statutory Instrument to align it with the Constitution and or the parent Act, our client shall approach the court for redress of this matter without further notice to you,” reads the letter dated May 26 2016.

The lawyers argued that the company only resolved to tow trailers in pursuance to a law that barred the use of rooftop luggage racks. “We hasten to state that the trailers were put in place because of the 2011 Bilateral Agreement (between Zimbabwe and Botswana), which scrapped the placement of luggage on the bus roof.

“Ironically, these trailers have now become the source of economic problems for our client and other citizens in light of the provisions of the recently promulgated SI 148 of 2015,” the letter reads. Jay Jay Travel and Tours says it is now losing business as passengers are opting for buses without trailers.

“Our client’s coaches have always drawn trailers for the convenience of its customers’ luggage. This circumstance has resulted in our client gradually losing out business to coaches that do not have trailers or to small transporters who are now picking up travellers to the border post, so that they will be treated as pedestrians in terms of the statutory instrument,” the company said.

The lawyers contend that the statutory instrument was in violation of the people’s right to equal protection of the law as enshrined under Section 56(1) of the supreme law.

It is also the lawyers’ argument that the same law had an effect of discriminating people basing on economic or social status.

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