Constitutional Amendment Bill being misconstrued and politicised

An unemployed man reads up on Zimbabwean constitutional law to understand the process of possible presidential impeachment, in a park opposite the parliament building in downtown Harare, Zimbabwe Tuesday, Nov. 21, 2017. Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe should acknowledge the nation's "insatiable desire" for a leadership change and resign immediately, the recently fired vice president and likely successor to the 93-year-old leader said Tuesday. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
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The Constitutional Amendment Bill which was gazetted by Government on 31 December 2019 has sparked controversy among citizens and a deliberate ploy to influence a bandwagon resistance of the passage of the Bill in Parliament by some opposition forces has been noted.
by Ashley Kondo

Hostile elements who have cast aspersions on the Bill have centred their arguments on clauses that have to do with the powers of the Executive in relation to other arms of Government such as the judiciary, while turning a blind eye to the benefits that the country may derive out of some of the proposed amendments.

It appears that some opposition political actors have lost objectivity and the desired sense of national identity and vision, to the extent that it has become taboo to support a well-meaning cause supposedly not in their best interest.

Some of the prominent figures who have come out publicly calling for the resistance to the Bill include MDC leader, Nelson Chamisa, MDC co-Vice President, Tendai Biti, NCA leader, Prof Lovemore Madhuku and journalist, Hopewell Chin’ono.

Chin’ono has even gone a step further to mobilise prominent lawyers including former Government of National Unity MDC Minister for Constitutional Affairs during the (GNU), Eric Matinenga, to speak against the Bill on video skirts being circulated on social media.

This goes to show how the nation has been socialized into a politically polarised society.

In the wake of such a society, it seems the success or failure of a policy would be measured and determined by the face and person behind its implementation, other than his office – a wrong precedent that has torn the nation into disunity.

The Constitution is the supreme law used in the governance of a country. As such, naturally, it should be conceptualised around national interests and vision.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has pronounced Vision 2030, where Zimbabwe is expected to have attained a middle income economy.

To that end, Government has been directing its efforts towards the achievement of this vision through a number of tools including policy formulation and reviews.

The Constitutional Amendment Bill has 27 proposed amendments which would see the repeal of undesirable provisions that were included in the Constitution during the Inclusive Government.

It is rather unfortunate that the proposed amendments have largely been viewed and interpreted with political lenses.

Among others, the Bill would see; the removal of the clause on Presidential running mates; the President appoint up to seven Ministers from outside Parliament; the election of 10 members of Metropolitan Councils legislators by a system of party-list proportional representation; the removal of legislators from the membership of Provincial Councils.

Some critics have argued that the proposed amendments give too much power to the President.

However, it should be remembered that the President is an appointed authority who may be changed after a five year term and may only run for two terms.

There is nothing wrong with having a powerful President whose mandate was derived from majority vote.

The clause on running mates is foreign to the Zimbabwean political culture, a concept borrowed from the United States (US) electoral system, which is an anathema to the African context.

Its repeal would give the President flexibility in appointing his deputy or deputies as he deems fit, including replacing them with another should they become unfit for office.

The removal of legislators from Provincial councils is a welcome move that would do away with conflict of interests in Provincial Councils given that legislators are political actors.

Therefore the move should enable the smooth implantation and flow of devolution.

It can be observed that over the years politics has continued to be viewed as a dirty game and hence business and academic elites have shied away from politics despite having the brains for politics.

The idea of allowing the President to appoint up to seven Ministers from outside Parliament would enable technocrats to provide a fair share of their contribution to nation building and development.

Similarly, the election of ten additional legislators by a system of party-list proportional representation will allow representation of all in Parliament, particularly the youths.

Given the current situation, it is in the best interest of Government to educate the public far and wide on the benefits to be derived from the proposed amendments.

Despite its passage into law being almost certain given that the ruling party has more than two thirds majority in Parliament required to pass the Bill into law, there remains greater need to reasons and motives for the proposed amendments to the Constitution.

A highlight of the short and long term national benefits to be realised could be a starting point.