President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: GCIS

The Progressive Professionals Forum (PPF) has called on President Jacob Zuma not to sign the Financial Intelligence Centre Amendment (Fica) Bill unless its "unconstitutional and arbitrary" deficiencies are addressed.

If the bill is promulgated in its current form the PPF will take it to the Constitutional Court, the organisation warned in a media statement.

Its warning comes as pressure mounts from the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (Casac), Corruption Watch, Banking Association of SA and the DA for Zuma to sign the bill in order for SA to meet its international commitments to fight money laundering and the financing of terrorism.

The bill was adopted by Parliament at the end of February and Casac said this week that if Zuma did not sign it within the next few weeks, it would approach the Constitutional Court in a bid to force him to do so.

Zuma does not have the power to address the elements raised by the PPF and is able only to consider whether the reworked bill satisfies his concern about the constitutionality of the provision relating to warrantless searches. This was the reason he sent the bill back to Parliament late last year.

PPF deputy general secretary Zinhle Cele said the PPF understood "the attempted pressure and rush by the banks and others to have the bill hurriedly signed as an attempt by these banks to legitimise their illegal actions of closing people’s, especially black people’s bank accounts they deem to be politically exposed or influential arbitrarily as we have proof that some professionals’ bank accounts have been closed as we speak".

Cele said the PPF objected to the bill because it "arrogates the powers and role of the security cluster such as the police, intelligence and the National Prosecuting Authority to the banks, which is contrary and in direct violation to the Constitution".

This view was attacked during public hearings by Parliament’s standing committee on finance, on the grounds that the bill does not require banks to act as enforcement or investigative agencies. They are merely required to report suspicious financial transactions to the Financial Intelligence Centre, which can decide after investigation to refer matters to the investigative authorities.

Cele said the PPF was also opposed to a provision in the bill requiring heightened vigilance of politically exposed and prominent influential persons.

"One becomes a politically exposed person purely by virtue of the strategic position one holds in the public service, like being a director-general, a judge, a deputy director or chief director, majority of which are blacks and Africans," Cele said.

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