Mudenda on the spot over constitution


Parliament has been petitioned to reject government’s fresh bid to amend the constitution following the gazetting of Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2 that seeks 27 changes to the country’s supreme law.

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum submitted a petition to speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda pleading with him to exercise his powers and throw away the proposed amendments.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government approved the changes to the constitution, which among other proposals, seek to remove the clause on the presidential running mate and consolidate power in the president’s office.

The proposals also seek to whittle down the powers of Parliament by limiting the executive’s accountability to legislators, among others issues.

But The Forum, a coalition of 20 human rights groups, said the amendments were retrogressive and would erode the tenets of democracy.

The rights lobby groups argued that it would be morally wrong for government to propose changes for the second time to the 2013 constitution, which has not yet been fully implemented.

The Constitutional Court last month ruled that Constitutional Amendment No 1 of 2017, which sought to give Mnangagwa more powers in the appointment of the chief justice and his deputy, was unconstitutional.

“Noting that the constitution has an enduring characteristic in terms of which it is made for posterity,” the forum wrote in a letter to Mudenda dated April 30.

“It is unlike ordinary legislation that can be amended to suit existing circumstances.

“Further noting that, while the constitution has a provision allowing for its amendment in section 328; the section betrays a rigid constitution such that it should not be resorted to easily and can only be amended in the event of absolute necessity.”

The Forum said government had not been confronted with any pressing need to justify amendment of the constitution.

“As an enduring piece of law, which reflects the basic values of the society of Zimbabwe as a whole, and enacted at great public expense, it is self-evident that the constitution should be amended only when it is absolutely necessary to do so,” the Forum added.

“Absent absolute necessity, the constitution should not be changed with munificent abandon.

“Great care and consideration should be taken before any decision to amend it is taken.

“Consequently, the petitioners pray that you exercise your powers and turn down any proposals by the government to amend the constitution of Zimbabwe.”

The Forum noted with concern that despite the significance of the changes being sought through the Constitutional Amendment Bill, there had been no attempts by the government to explain why it was a necessity to tinker with the constitution.

“Some of the provisions being amended have not even seen the light of the day,” The Forum added.

“The people of Zimbabwe have not been given the opportunity to experience fully the constitution, which they adopted through a decisive referendum in 2013.

“This move by the government disregards the wishes and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.

“Parliamentarians and the executive must hold sacrosanct the will of the people and not undermine it.”

The human rights lobby groups said the constitution was a reflection of the wishes of majority of the people of Zimbabwe, which made it necessary to consult them before any changes to the supreme law were made.

Source – The Standard