Zanu-PF cannot amend Constitution, party does not have enough numbers in Senate

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)

Parliamentary, legal and civil rights watchdog Veritas has said that the ruling Zanu-PF party may find it hard to amend the Constitution as it does not have a two-thirds majority in the Senate. Zanu-PF has 180 seats out of 270 in the National Assembly which is exactly two thirds. However, in the Senate, Zanu-PF has 35 seats out of 80, although the traditional chiefs have 18 seats. In a bulletin, Veritas writes

Distribution of Senate Seats

Total 80 seats

[60 party-list seats + 18 seats for Senator Chiefs, + 2 seats for

Senators Representing Disabled Persons]

Party

Total

Party-list seats
[60]

Other seats
[20]

MDC Alliance

24

24

MDC-T

1

1

ZANU PF

35

35

Senator Chiefs

18

18

Disabled reps

2

2

Total

80

60

20

 

Notes:

  1. No 2/3 majority for ZANU-PF  ZANU PF’s total of 35 seats is well short of the two-thirds majority [54 votes – Constitution, section 344(3)] needed to pass a constitutional amendment.  Even if all 18 Senator chiefs were to vote with the ZANU PF 35 [totalling 53], it would still need one more Senator to make up the 54 votes needed.
  2. Women senators  There are 35 women Senators. 35 out of a total Senate membership of 80 is 43.75%, nearer the Constitution’s 50% mark than the National Assembly’s 31.5%.  
  3. Party-list seats  [See next paragraph]
  4. Senator Chiefs  [See later paragraph]
  5. Disabled reps [Senators representing persons with disabilities]  [These two Senators, one of whom must be a woman, were elected by a special Electoral College [see later paragraph].

Allocation of Party-list Seats

The allocation of all these seats was done at ZEC’s provincial command centres by provincial elections officers [Electoral Act, section 45I and Eighth Schedule].  In each province, the party-list seats for the province had to be based on the votes received by the participating political parties in that province as reflected on the constituency return forms for every constituency in the province.

After receipt of all the constituency returns [on form V.23B] for the province, the provincial elections officer was obliged to notify candidates, their election agents and observers when the returns would be verified and collated – to enable them to exercise their right to be present.  At the appointed time, the constituency returns had to be first verified and then collated to arrive at the total number of votes recorded in the province for constituency candidates of the participating parties.  The party-list seats [6, for the Senate, 6 for the National Assembly women’s quota and 10 for the provincial council] then had to be allocated among the participating parties in accordance with the formulae set out in the Eighth Schedule to the Electoral Act.

A provincial return then had to be prepared, copies provided  to those present at the verification and collation exercise and a copy prominently displayed outside the provincial command centre for the public to inspect and record its contents.  Finally, a certified copy of the provincial return had to be transmitted to the ZEC National Command Centre.

Senator Chiefs

The 18 Senate seats for Senator Chiefs were filled by a three-stage process as laid out in Part XX of the Electoral Act, each stage being presided over by a ZEC official:

  • election of the Council of Chiefs by the provincial assemblies of chiefs [11th July]
  • election of the President and Deputy President of the Council of Chiefs by the members of the Council of Chiefs [18th July].  The President of the Council and his Deputy are ex officioSenators.  Chiefs Charumbira and Mtshane were re-elected as President and Deputy President, respectively.
  • election of the other 16 Senator Chiefs by the provincial assemblies of chiefs [1st August].  Each on the eight non-metropolitan provinces elected two chiefs; there are no Senator Chiefs representing the metropolitan provinces of Bulawayo and Harare.

Senators Representing Persons with Disabilities

The Seventh Schedule to the Electoral Act sets out the procedure for the formation under ZEC’s supervision of an Electoral College with the sole function of electing two disabled persons, one of whom must be a woman, as Senators to represent the interests of disabled persons in the Senate.  The Electoral College consists of disabled persons who are registered voters and otherwise qualified to be Senators [over 40 years of age, Zimbabwe citizens, etc.]  They are nominated for Electoral College membership by organisations assisting disabled persons, institutions providing services to disabled persons and registered trusts whose mandate is to assist persons with disabilities.  Half of the members must be women.  The Senators elected need not be from members of the Electoral College.  The Electoral College met on 3rd August and elected two Senators to represent persons with disabilities.

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