Zimbabwe’s Mnangagwa nudges closer to amending constitition

President Emmerson Mnangagwa
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THE controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2019 was gazetted yesterday after it was recently approved by Cabinet, setting the stage for the removal of the provision for running mates and other sections viewed as undesirable.

The MDC has said it will use all the available platforms to halt the random constitutional amendments proposed by Zanu PF, which the opposition party says are moves by the ruling party to consolidate its stranglehold on power.

The removal of the running mates clause will allow the President-elect to appoint the two Vice Presidents. The 2013 Constitution, through Section 92, had a 10-year transitional clause that provided for the joint election of the President and two running mates selected by the Presidential candidate. But the Constitutional Amendment Bill published in yesterday’s Extraordinary Government Gazette will repeal the provision of the running mates.

According to the State media, the authorities moved for the abrogation of the provision, arguing that the American concept had the effect of creating parallel centres of power. Authorities argue that the concept is not an international best practice.

According to Section 328 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.20) Act 2013, after gazetting the Constitutional Amendment Bill, Parliament will have to invite members of the public to express their views on the proposals. The views can be gathered through public gatherings and written submission, with Parliament obliged to convene meetings and provide facilities to enable the process.

The Bill will be passed at its last reading in the National Assembly and the Senate by the affirmative votes of two-thirds of the membership of each House. When the Bill is presented to the President for assent and signature after being passed, it should be accompanied by a certificate from the Speaker that at its final vote in the National Assembly, it received the affirmative votes of at least two-thirds of its membership. The President of the Senate should also present a similar certificate indicating that members of that House affirmed the Bill with at least two-thirds of the membership.

An analysis of the Bill shows that clauses 1 to 8 dispense with the running mate concept of the vice-presidency and in its place, the two vice presidents will be chosen on the President’s own authority. Clause 9 reads: “This clause adopts the provisions of paragraph 14 of the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution as the operative provisions relating to the question of the succession to the Presidency (given that the Vice-Presidents are not elected as running mates).”

The Bill also seeks to allow the President to appoint up to seven (instead of five) additional ministers outside Parliament.

It further proposes to extend by another 10 years, the provision of the election of 60 female members in the National Assembly under proportional representation, while also providing for the setting aside of one constituency per province for youths.

The Nelson Chamisa-led opposition party on Friday called on citizens including civil society, the clergy and labour movements, to defend the Constitution. The party said what was required were reforms that enabled the country to move forward.

According to the Bill, this will be done on proportional representation. In addition, the Bill proposes to empower the President, acting on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC), to appoint sitting judges to vacancies in the higher courts without subjecting them to the public interview procedure. Another key feature in the Bill is clause 14, which will allow judges of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court to annually extend their tenure after reaching the age of 70, for up to five years subject to a favourable medical report regarding mental and physical fitness of the judge to continue in office.

“Clause 19 will provide for the appointment of the Prosecutor-General by the President on the advice of the JSC, without the intervention of a public interview procedure, and makes a special provision for his or her removal for cause by a Tribunal,” reads the passage of the clause.

Clauses 20, 21, 22 and 25 of the Bill seek to remove members of Parliament from membership of the provincial council.

This will see the merging of provisions relating to provincial and metropolitan councils by removing the special provisions relating to the latter (they will no longer be chaired by mayors, but be elected in terms of Section 272 like provincial councils), and provide for the election of 10 of the members of Metropolitan Councils by a system of party-list proportional representation.

Addressing journalists in Bulawayo, MDC spokesperson, Daniel Molekele said as a party they were opposed to systematic constitutional amendments being carried out by Zanu PF and called on all Zimbabweans to defend the Constitution.

“We are strongly against the constitutional amendments because it negates the gains of the 2013 Constitution. As the MDC we will use all platforms that are available for us to contest against any changes of the Constitution,” Molokele said.

“We will make sure that we contest in Parliament and all public spheres, we will even engage on a diplomatic initiative. We will go international and bring attention to this attempt to negate the democratic gains as gained in the 2013 Constitution.”

“We will come up with an advocacy campaign, we are calling civil society, faith-based leaders, labour movements, students, youth, women and every interested stakeholder to defend the Constitution of the country,” Molokele said.

He said their actions will not be a political process, but a national process.

“This Constitution was enacted after a referendum in 2013 and we are saying people of Zimbabwe if we allow Zanu PF to change the Constitution like any other act of Parliament we will have a big problem,” he said.

Molokele said the party condemns the actions of Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda who has succumbed to pressure and reduced Parliament to a captured entity.

“The party will escalate its quest to safeguard the independence of Parliament to appropriate international bodies,” Molokele said.

Last week opposition MPs confronted Mudenda over the alleged bias over Zanu PF.