MPs differ on Constitution Amendment Bill

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)

ZANU PF and MDC MPs have expressed divergent views regarding Constitution Amendment Bill No. 2, which will see, among other things, the dropping of the presidential running mate clause ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.

Debating the proposed law in the National Assembly on Tuesday, MDC MPs criticised the bill gazetted in December 2019, saying it bestows too much power on the president, while their Zanu PF counterparts argued to the contrary.

MDC legislator for Dzivaresekwa Constituency Edwin Mushoriwa said the proposed amendments were taking the country backwards.

“One of the things that cost Zimbabwe from 1980 to around 2017 when the former president (the late Robert Mugabe) left was because he had all the power vested in him.

“What we want to ensure is a democratic country that has systems, checks and balances, but the Constitution Amendment No.2 Bill intends to remove everything.

“Once we do that, we cannot move two steps forward and then three steps backwards and then say we are progressing as a country, we are not — what the minister (Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi) has done is to take us back and that is not right,” Mushoriwa said.

“The provisions that are contained in the Constitution Amendment No.2 Bill that have been laid by the minister are the very same things that Zimbabweans across the 10 provinces said no to.

“You will know that the generality of the people do not want power to reside in one individual but to be shared amongst many institutions.

“The majority of Zimbabweans want to see strong State institutions rather than individuals, but what we have seen is that Constitution Amendment No.2 Bill tends to take us back to where we are running from,” Mushoriwa said further.

Kadoma Central MDC MP Muchineripi Chinyanganya concurred with Mushoriwa, saying that the general populace also had a right to choose people whom they trust to be their leaders.

“In as much as it is important that the president chooses his vice presidents, it is also important that the general populace have a say in the people who are going to lead them for the next five years.

“I know that there are certain issues pertaining to loyalty when one is voted together with the president. I would like to believe that it is important for people to have a say in who should lead them.

“In that regard, I think it is important that (the running mate clause) is not removed from the Constitution,” Chinyanganya said.

However, Zanu PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi said there was nothing much in the changes being proposed and accused opposition MPs of majoring in unimportant issues.

“The issue is we just have to read Amendment No.2 Bill and understand what it seeks to achieve. It is not to disadvantage anybody.

“Members should acquaint themselves with that amendment. For me, it represents progress,” Togarepi said.

Zanu PF MP for Mberengwa East, Marko Raidza, backed Togarepi, arguing that the president should have powers to choose his own trusted counterparts.

“I will talk on the issue of running mates of the president, where the contesting president has to choose who his running mates are. In our Constitution, they are supposed to be voted into power just like we vote into power the president.

“This amendment seeks to remove this section and say vice presidents should not be voted into power but only the president should be voted into power. I am in support of this. It will be difficult for a president to work with vice presidents who were voted into power by the people. Therefore, the president should choose who he wants to work with.

“He is the focal person and he is the point of contact for everyone. All the questions come to the president and he is the one who is above. He is consulted and he is supposed to respond. Vice presidents, if they are voted into power, there is a bit of a challenge in them assuming their roles, because each individual among those VPs will say I was also voted into power just like you — so there may be some conflicts,” Raidza also said.

Meanwhile, the Crisis Coalition of Zimbabwe (CCZ) has condemned Constitutional Amendment No.1, which also gives the president unfettered powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court.

CCZ said the proposed amendments were an affront to the principle of separation of powers and judicial independence.

In a constitutional barometer measuring the extent and impact of the implementation of the Zimbabwean Constitution launched on Monday, the organisation said the guarantee of judicial independence by the Constitution was essential for an impartial judge.

Speaking during the launch, academic Andrew Mutsiwa said a number of laws and practices that were being approved by the government did not conform to constitutional provisions including Amendment Bill No. 1.

“The amendments are a sign that the quality and level of progress in terms of constitutionalism is on a decline and there is erosion of constitutional values. It will go to Parliament where the ruling party has a majority and will obviously be passed into law. Parliament is now more concentrated with the ruling party.

“The concept of separation of powers is a contested principle, there is hardly any. Based on what is currently happening the executive and ruling party have taken control of the law making process.

‘‘We have a situation where the president can actually appoint and fire judges at any given time. The concept of separation of powers is being eroded,” Mutsiwa said. – Daily News