Zimbabwean parties spar over Constitutional amendments

Ziyambi Ziyambi

THE ruling Zanu PF and the MDC continue to butt heads over Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2, with opposition legislators arguing that this will give a sitting president too much power if approved.

Speaking in the Senate on Tuesday during a heated debate over the Bill — which seeks to introduce at least 27 amendments to the Constitution, including dropping the presidential election running mate clause — Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, pictured, and Zanu PF senators argued that the country’s leader needed to be empowered to make key decisions.

“We should give the one (the president) who has been selected or elected into power all the powers. If you see that this one is no longer doing what we are expecting, remove him from that position.

“There are some who mentioned that they amended this clause to oust the yester-year president, the late … (former president Robert) Mugabe.

“Let us deal with that particular individual who would have messed up. Let us give the president the powers so that we equally blame him because we would have given him the mandate to lead,” Ziyambi said.

He added that a sitting president should also be given powers to remove his or her deputies, as the latter were just assistants.

“If there is a clause in the Constitution that was so badly done it is the running mate clause … It simply says the president and vice presidents will be jointly elected, which means whatever electoral law that we have to make as the ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, there will be the name of the president, the vice president and another vice president and you put an X on the three of them.

“What it then says now is that the president cannot remove that vice president,” Ziyambi said.

At the same time, the minister further suggested that under the Constitution the president was more powerful than both Parliament and the judiciary, and hence should be given powers to appoint judges.

“I have always heard that there is … separation of powers … the executive, the judiciary and the legislature.

“But people forget that we are not only talking about the head of the executive, but the head of State.

“The president does not head the executive only, he is called the head of the executive and the commander-in-chief,” Ziyambi said.

“So, the president is not equal to the Speaker of Parliament, the president is not equal to the Chief Justice. He is above them because he heads the executive.

“He is the head of the State and you cannot equate him with them. So, there are certain powers that are bestowed on the president by virtue of him being the president and because of the powers that he has.

“Hence, the Constitution speaks about the judiciary authority coming from the people because he is the president who appends his signature,” Ziyambi said further.

Zanu PF senators who also contributed to the debate weighed in saying there was nothing wrong with giving the president more powers.

“If we take away powers from the president because we want to please the people, I think we have lost it.

“The amendment is good because when we look at the president and the powers that we are giving him there is no way he can forget his people,” Zanu PF senator Clara Shumba said.

“He (the president) should be given the right to choose people whom he can work with. Most of the judges went through interviews. Now it is the duty of the president to see who has the capacity to run the judiciary.

“The president should be given powers to execute his mandate as the head of State,” she added.

Another Zanu PF senator, Maybe Mbohwa, also said the president should be given powers to appoint people he would want to work with in order to avoid confusion.

“If we impose on him people to work with, it becomes difficult for him to supervise them. If the head selects his own people to work with, it is easier to work with them.

“So, we want a president whom we have entrusted to choose his own vice presidents. Let us not reduce these powers … but let us trust him as the head of the nation and know that he loves everyone in the country.

“No father will take a mad man and put him in a leadership position. If the one he appointed fails, he does not blow the trumpet to say come and see what is happening, but he will just remove that person and put someone with the capacity,” Mbohwa said.

Yet another Zanu PF Senator Tsitsi Muzenda said the same powers that the president had to choose his Cabinet should be extended to include other portfolios.

“In our scenario as a nation, we see that there is development and progress through the individuals that he chose as vice presidents.

“I support the point that we should give all those executive powers to the president,” she said.

But MDC senators criticised the proposed amendments, arguing that tinkering with the Constitution was a step backwards for Zimbabwe.

Senator Morgen Komichi was among the opposition legislators who said the amendments would disadvantage the people.

“People put their ideas in the Constitution and we must respect the views of Zimbabweans. People were against putting power in one office … We will create a dictator by putting power in one office.

“The people and Parliament’s power is being thrown away and all the power is now under the president,” Komichi said.

He also said people must be given the power to select their leaders, including VPs.

“This will help the country to have a smooth transition and the succession question will be solved. You see what happened in Tanzania and Malawi, there was a smooth transition.

“You are now removing people in the selection of the judges. They must be accountable to Zimbabweans not to one person, and if the judge is appointed by one person he or she will be accountable to that person and in doing so we are removing the independence of the judiciary,” Komichi said.

Another MDC senator Elias Mudzuri also said it was not good for the country to amend the Constitution.

“Is the minister arguing that the people were not thinking when they contributed to the Constitution in 2013? The whole process of the Constitution took years and we are reversing this a few years after this good job.

“We have not yet implemented some of the provisions, but we are now changing it. Let’s not just amend the Constitution for the sake of amending it.

“There is a need for wider consultation. We represent people, but sometimes we end up representing our selfish ends. We shall be written in history as people who agreed to do things that negatively affected Zimbabwe,” he said. – Daily News