Inflation Blackout Challenged in Court

MASVINGO High Court Judge Justice Sunsley Zisengwe on Monday 3 February 2020 reserved judgment on an application filed by a trade union and a pensioners’ rights lobby organisation challenging Finance and Economic Development Minister Hon. Mthuli Ncube’s unilateral decision to withhold publication of inflation figures in Zimbabwe.

Justice Zisengwe reserved judgment after hearing arguments from lawyers representing the National Social Security Authority Workers Union (NSSAWU), a labour union and Zimbabwe Pension and Insurance Rights Trust (ZPIRT), which champions the rights of pension funds members and policyholders and those representing Hon. Ncube and the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency.

In court, Tendai Biti of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, who represented NSSAWU and ZPIRT argued that Hon. Ncube’s decision is irrational, grossly unreasonable, illegal, illegitimate and violates the principle of good governance and transparency provided for in the Constitution.

Hon. Ncube in August 2019 announced the ban in publication of annualised inflation figures to February 2020 and indicated that the National Statistical Agency will only publish month on month inflation figures.

However, NSSAWU and ZPIRT, which champions the rights of pension funds members and policyholders petitioned the High Court seeking to set aside Hon. Ncube’s decision not to publish the inflation figures.

In the application filed by Biti, NSSAWU and ZPIRT argued that Hon. Ncube’s decision is irrational, grossly unreasonable, illegal, illegitimate and violates the principle of good governance and transparency provided for in Zimbabwe’s Constitution.

NSSAWU argued that as a trade union, it relies on annualised inflation figures to negotiate increases in its members’ salaries with its employers.

NSSAWU and ZPIRT argued that publication of annualised inflation figures is important in that inflation is an important variable in any economy and is a very destablising force which makes it necessary to keep track of its movement.

NSSAWU and ZPIRT said annualised inflation assists entreprenuers in ascertaining real trends in production, sales, purchases, profits and others values.

When Hon. Ncube took over as Finance and Economic Development Minister in September 2018, Zimbabwe’s annualised inflation stood at 3%.

However, in July 2019, when government last published annualised inflation figures, the rate had risen to 175%, a figure which NSSAWU and ZPIRT argued Hon. Ncube was keen to “hide”.

In response to NSSAWU and ZPIRT’s application, Hon. Ncube, who was represented by Kenias Chimiti from the Attorney General’s Office defended his decision to impose a moratorium on the publication of annual inflation figures as justified following the change in currency regimes in Zimbabwe.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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