Govt rentals moratorium illegal: Lawyer

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Govt rentals moratorium illegal: Lawyer

A LAWYER has described President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s decision to defer payment of rentals during the lockdown period as illegal and a strategy by government to abrogate on its responsibility and force citizens to look aft er other people.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa
President Emmerson Mnangagwa

Mnangagwa on Thursday invoked the Temporary Presidential Powers to freeze rental increases and stop any evictions or court action against tenants who fail to pay their landlords. He gazetted Statutory Instrument 96 of 2020 to give reprieve to tenants by, among other things, freezing rentals at the current level until aft er the lockdown is lifted. But lawyer Valentine Mutatu said the pronouncements by Mnangagwa were illegal and violated the Constitution of Zimbabwe. “Arguably, this law violates the right to property guaranteed in the Constitution.

The government has shift ed its burden and constitutional responsibility to look after its citizens and given such to other citizens,” he said. Mutatu said government should, instead, pay the rentals on behalf of its citizens and cushion them through offering social protection nets. “The provision of shelter is on the State subject to availability of resources. In this case, the State has not indicated how it will cushion those people who rely on their investments in the form of properties. I believe the law has good intentions but the ripple effects will be far reaching,” Mutatu said.

In his gazette, Mnangagwa said: “For the period of the national lockdown, no protected tenant shall be — subjected to any increase or escalation of rental whether or not such increase is provided for under the rental contract,” part of the instrument reads. Mnangagwa also eff ectively blocked any possible court action against tenants who failed to pay rentals during the lockdown provided that such rentals would be recovered after the nation’s returns to normalcy. “Shall not be subject to any legal proceedings for nor shall any court make an order for the eviction or ejectment from land or premises constituting rented accommodation during the period of the lockdown no afterwards …” the law further reads in part.

The law does not, however, absolve tenants from paying rentals which landlords are entitled to recover after the lockdown. Government has also deferred mortgage payments, blocking banks and other financial institutions from enforcing foreclosures or penalties for missed payments owing to the lockdown. “Every mortgagor shall not be subjected to any legal proceedings … the foreclosure if a mortgage bond or other action for taking of possession on mortgaged property,” the law further reads in part. Newsday

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