THE much-awaited Constitutional reform process has entered a crucial stage following the gazetting of the Constitution Amendment Bill which paves way for restructuring of the supreme law.
Government recently gazetted 27 proposed amendments to the Constitution including clauses to facilitate the roll out of the devolution agenda through removing Members of Parliament from the membership of provincial councils.
The amendments also include clauses permitting the President to appoint at least two more non-constituency Cabinet Ministers and also extending the women’s quota in Parliament by another two terms.
The women’s quota was set to expire during the current Parliament.
In addition, the amendments will include a provision for the introduction of 10 extra seats in the National Assembly reserved for youths — one from each province.
Furthermore , the Bill seeks to terminate the joint election of the President and his deputies through removal of the “running mate” clause.
Joint election of the country’s top leadership was set to commence in 2023.
Parliament, according to State media, will soon initiate nationwide public hearings into the Bill to ensure inclusivity in the law making process.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the Bill will now be tabled for debates in the National Assembly early April, at least 90 days after its gazetting.
“During this period, public consultations will commence with written submissions to the Clerk of Parliament, while relevant committees will conduct public hearings across the country and produce a report after the consultations,” said Minister Ziyambi.
“After that, the Bill is introduced in the House and given its first reading after which a committee report is presented and the Parliamentarians debate it.
“After that second reading and winding up of debates, if issues arise after consultations we then go into the committee stage where if there is need, relevant amendments and changes are made.
The Bill will then go through the third House before the vote. A two thirds majority of the vote is required for the Bill to pass. It is then sent to the Senate where similar procedures are done before it is sent to the President for assent.
“So the 90-day period will likely come around the end of March so we expect to introduce it in the House early April.”
Clerk of Parliament Mr Kennedy Chokuda said Parliament would commence sittings on 11 February.
“Committees resume earlier to deal with petitions and public hearings on Bills.
“Yes, we have to do public hearings on all Bills (including the Constitution Amendment Bill).”
Currently the Constitution allows for the President to appoint only five Cabinet Ministers from outside Parliament, but once the amendment Bill is passed, the President will be empowered to appoint two more.
Reads the Bill in part: “Section 104 (“Appointment of Ministers and Deputy Minister”) (3) of the Constitution is amended by the deletion of “up to five” and the substitution of “up to seven”.
The composition of the National Assembly will also be changed to include 10 more Parliamentarians elected through proportional representation.
In a development to facilitate implementation of one of the resolutions from the Zanu-PF National People’s Conference held last month, the women’s quota clause will also be extended.
In addition, Section 161 of the Constitution is also being amended to allow for the decoupling of drawing of constituency boundaries and the national census.
Currently, the Constitution obligates Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to draw up new electoral boundaries every 10 years, immediately after a national population census. The next one is due in 2022.
On devolution, the Bill proposes to “remove members of Parliament from membership of provincial councils, merge the provisions relating to provincial and metropolitan councils by removing the special provision 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 members of Metropolitan Councils by a system of party list proportional representation.”
Other proposed changes include the establishment of the Public Protectors Office, the establishment of the Office of the Chief Secretary in the Office of the President and Cabinet and renaming of the Civil Service Commission back to the Public Service Commission.
Also, the Bill proposes that the Prosecutor General be appointed by the President on the advice of the Justice Services Commission without public interviews.
The tenures of the Constitutional Court and Supreme Court judges will also be extended after reaching the age of 70, for up to five years subject to a favourable medical report.