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The Beira-based business body ACIS (Commercial, Industrial and Service Association) has welcomed the decision by the Constitutional Council, Mozambique’s highest body in matters of constitutional law, to declare unconstitutional a norm that gave the Minister of Labour the unilateral power to cancel the contracts of foreign workers.
ACIS, in a Tuesday press release, took the credit for this Council decision. It revealed that, in June 2012, it took its concerns about the unrestricted power of the Labour Minister to sack foreign workers to the Attorney-General’s Office (PGR). The PGR agreed with ACIS that the norm was unconstitutional and sent an opinion to that effect to the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) and to the Ministry of Labour, in the belief that they would act on it.
But nothing happened, despite repeated and unsuccessful attempts by ACIS to contact the Attorney-General personally. Angered by this apparent inertia, ACIS contacted the Ombudsman, Jose Abudo, in February 2016, and asked him to take the matter up with the Constitutional Council.
He did so, and on 9 May this year, the Council ruled that the norm was indeed unconstitutional. because it denied the foreign worker affected the right “to defend himself in a due legal procedure”.
A dispatch from the Minister revoking a private contract “without offering, in good time, the opportunity for defence against the content of the accusations, whatever their nature, is an unequivocal and flagrant violation of the principle of contradiction which is essential under the rule of law”.
It also infringed the right which any citizen has to challenge administrative acts which damage his or her interests, and was thus “a real affront to the constitutional principle of effective protection”, the Council declared.
ACIS pointed out that since 2008, based on the norm now declared unconstitutional, dispatches from the Labour Minister have repeatedly denied foreign workers the right to work, accompanied by measures that ensure they can no longer live in Mozambique.
The effects of this, ACIS argues, included “the deterioration of the confidence of investors in Mozambique as a safe and attractive destination for their business, the closure of some companies, the disturbance of operations in the companies affected and in the relations between employers and workers, not to mention the personal costs”.
Some of the foreigners affected had Mozambican families from which they were brusquely separated, and with no opportunity to appeal against the Labour Minister’s decision.
The ruling from the Constitutional Council “has brought justice”, ACIS said, and will “improve confidence in the business environment in Mozambique”.
ACIS added that it had no intention of presenting itself as a defender of the interests of foreign workers against Mozambicans. Rather, it had taken action “to ensure that the business environment is not affected by extreme or populist measures”.
ACIS believed that it had opened a precedent, “showing that it is possible to oppose successfully measures that are not the most correct for the development of business, and thus contribute to a climate of greater confidence”.
It stressed that it is determined to continue working with the government and other public institutions “with the common goal of improving the business environment”.Source: AIM