Amendment Bill heads for consultations

Kennedy Chokuda

Public consultations start today on the Constitutional Amendment Bill that seeks to make the present interim measure of Vice Presidents being chosen by the President permanent and to extend for another 10 years the addition of 60 seats in the National Assembly to be reserved for women.

Legislators from the Parliament’s portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs have been put into four teams to tour all provinces with the committee and conducting virtual meetings on Tuesday and Friday.

The portfolio committee, chaired by Makoni South MP Cde Misheck Mataranyika (Zanu PF), is also expected to use media platforms such as radio stations to get views from the public.

Clerk of Parliament, Mr Kennedy Chokuda, said in a statement: “The public, interested groups and organisations are invited to attend these consultations.

“The public hearings will at all times comply with the Ministry of Health and Child Care Covid-19 regulations as outlined in Statutory Instruments 99 and 110 regarding observing social distancing, sanitisation, temperature screening and wearing of facial masks.

“Only 50 participants will be allowed at any one time.

“Where more than 50 participants want to attend they will only be allowed in groups that comply with the requirements.”

According to a schedule published by Parliament, the teams will today be in Chinhoyi, Gweru, Lupane and Mount Darwin, while they will be in Marondera, Hwange, Mberengwa and Gokwe Nembudziya tomorrow.

On Wednesday, they will visit Sanyati, Chivi, Plumtree and Mutare, rounding up on Thursday with meetings in Rusape, Mbembesi, Masvingo and Ngezi-Zimplats.

The visits will culminate in a virtual meeting where parliamentarians will engage the public through the Zoom media platform.

Under the present Constitution, Vice Presidents are chosen by the President for the first 10 years.

But from 2023, the Constitution rules that the three are elected as a team, with complex rules for succession to the Presidency and for filling Vice Presidential vacancies.

This is largely derived from the American practice and Government feels, has the effect of creating parallel centres of power and is not an international best practice.

The Bill also seeks to allow the President to appoint up to seven ministers from outside Parliament, up from the present five.

This measure is designed to increase the ability of a President to find suitable technocrats for key posts, rather than select from a pool of politicians.

For the first two Parliaments, the Constitution laid down that 60 extra members, all women, should be selected for the National Assembly under proportional representation, parties nominating these in proportion to the votes their constituency MPs won.

But there is a general feeling that while the number of women nominated for constituency seats is increasing, Zimbabwe has yet to reach gender equality, so the Bill proposes to keep the special arrangement for another two Parliaments.

The fourth measure proposes to empower the President, acting on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission, to appoint sitting judges to vacancies in the higher courts without subjecting them to the public interview procedure.