It’s not about skin colour – abide by the law‚ Carrim tells Fica Bill opponents

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He was speaking a day after Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) president Mzwanele Manyi vowed to take President Jacob Zuma to court if he signs the bill into law‚ telling Parliament the legislation would “plunge this country into crisis”.

He made this submission on Wednesday to Parliament’s finance committee‚ whose chairperson‚ Carrim‚ countered on Thursday morning that scrapping the bill‚ as Manyi proposed‚ “would be disastrous for the economy‚ not just the financial sector”.

Zuma returned the bill to Parliament last year‚ citing concerns that a clause allowing for searches without a warrant was unconstitutional because it limited the right to privacy.

The PPF and the Black Business Council (BBC) have vehemently opposed the bill – written to combat corruption‚ white collar crime‚ terrorism and money laundering by placing greater scrutiny on the financial affairs of prominent individuals and the politically connected.

Carrim told Radio 702 on Thursday morning: “Essentially‚ the BBC and PPF argue that the unintended consequence of the bill is to victimise black‚ particularly African‚ business‚ and they feel that the bill should be delayed at the very least‚ but Mr Manyi also argues it should be scrapped.

“It was said by National Treasury that it if we were to do that‚ it would be disastrous for the economy‚ not just the financial sector‚ and we agree.”

Carrim explained that scrapping the bill “is not possible‚ either in terms of the constitution or the joint rules of Parliament”‚ and that as it has “in fact been passed‚ as you know‚ by both houses of Parliament…it is not someting the committee‚ which is subordinate to Parliament‚ can do”.

He agreed that victimisation of black business “is happening‚ but I don’t believe it is happening because of this bill”. This issue‚ he said‚ would be addressed by public hearings involving the banks in Parliament in March.

Of the BBC and PPF’s objections‚ Carrim said: “Basically‚ their argument is that aspects of the powers granted to the inspectors of the FIC are unconstitutional‚ they belong really to the security sector.

“Actually‚ aspects‚ substantial aspects of this bill that the BBC and PPF are opposed to are put into practice anyway because the major banks are part of a globalised financial system‚ and they have to participate in the system according to international rules.”

He explained that the major banks don’t only have to account “to the Reserve Bank and the regulators here” but were also answerable to authorities in other countries they operate. “There seems to be some confusion. It is not the banks that have any special power through this bill‚ it’s the Financial Intelligence Centre that does effectively.

“Emerging entrepreneurs cannot use as an excuse the banks’ regulatory dispensation and their policies as being discriminatory if they themselves as individuals are doing things outside the law.

“We need to find the right balance‚ it doesn’t matter what colour your skin colour is‚ you must abide by the law and the practices that are legitimate‚ and don’t use this bill as an excuse.”

He also said the committee‚ which was holding public hearings on a returned bill for the first time ever‚ was limited in what it could do. “Where a bill is returned on the grounds that one or other provision is unconstitutional… we don’t have the authority‚ either in terms of the constitution or in terms of the joint rules of the committee‚ to look at issues other than the issue or issues returned to us in Parliament that are argued by the president to be unconstitutional.”

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