Jacob+Zuma

The Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution has asked President Jacob Zuma to sign the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) Amendment Bill, or refer it back to the National Assembly within 30 days.

The organisation warned Zuma in a letter that it would approach the courts if he did not carry out his constitutional obligation.

Council executive secretary Lawson Naidoo wrote that the legislation would “strengthen SA’s capacity to fight corruption, specifically money laundering, trafficking and finance of terrorism”.

“It will bring us into line with international standards on combating financial crime and in particular our obligations as a member of the Financial Action Task Force.”

Parliament passed the bill in May, and it is awaiting Zuma’s signature.

The legislation requires banks to perform enhanced due diligence on “politically exposed” people in line with international obligations.

This has aroused ire in some ANC quarters.

The Presidency said in August that the signing of the bill was delayed by a constitutional objection lodged by the Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF), a lobby group established by former government spokesman Mzwanele (Jimmy) Manyi.

Former finance minister Trevor Manuel has said that by not assenting to the bill Zuma was breaking his oath of office.

Once Parliament has passed legislation, the president is required to assent to it, unless there is a constitutional issue.

Manuel questioned how an individual such as Manyi could “trump the votes” of more than 400 MPs, and said failure to sign the bill into law indicated an “unravelling of SA’s democracy”.

In its letter, the council urged Zuma to “exercise your obligation” under the constitution. It reminded him that section 79(1) required him to sign the bill or refer it back to the National Assembly if he had reservations about its constitutionality.

“You have thus far chosen neither option,” wrote Naidoo.

“Your attention is also drawn to section 237 of the constitution, which provides that ‘all constitutional obligations must be performed diligently and without delay’.”

The Presidency told Business Day on Sunday that Zuma was considering the PPF petition.