Experts in the legal and policy domain on Wednesday unpacked the contents of the proposed Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.2) Bill to more than 300 residents at a Public Opinion Space held at Bulawayo City Hall ahead of the national public hearings.
National Public hearings which seek to gather citizens’ views on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill of 2019 are expected to be rolled out after at least 90 days from the day the bill was gazzetted. Speaking during the public opinion space, Dr Gorden Moyo said he was worried about government’s prioritization of issues.
“Out of 53 acts of Parliament dating back from the year 1932, identified for realignment to the Constitution, only 11 have been addressed yet government chooses to focus on introducing 29 Constitutional amendments. This is wrong,” said Moyo. “Government should focus on issues of development and service delivery as well as addressing the economic crunch that the country is currently experiencing”, said Dr Moyo
Professor Welshman Ncube speaking on the clause on the promotion and tenure of Judges said the amendment will allow the President without the need for public interviews to appoint or promote a judge of the Supreme Court.
“How then will judges who know that the renewal of the terms of their office are dependent on the President’s discretion give judgments against the executive? The current amendment will take away judicial independence and will deeply compromise the enforcement of the provisions of the Constitution while checking and controlling any abuses of its provisions” said Ncube.
Latricia Mumba said the proposed amendment Bill is retrogressive and will undermine the Constitution itself as most of the proposed amendments amount to consolidation of the personal power of the President and thereby returning the country to the position before the 2013 Constitution whereby most of the decision-making power was concentrated in the hands of the President.
“If we let it pass into law, there will be no way to challenge it,” said Mumba.
Mumba also bemoaned the Bill’s intention to terminate the joint election of the President and his deputies through removal of the “running mate” clause.
“The proposed amendment will have the effect of increasing and consolidating the President’s personal political power at the expense of his party. The concept of the running mate in elections was meant to bring with it ccertainty to Presidential succession and legitimacy to the position of Vice President. The Vice President’s mandate was meant to come from the electorate and not the President. Now he will be beholden to the President,” said Mumba.
In December 2019, Government gazetted 27 proposed amendments to the Constitution with the intention of including clauses that will facilitate the roll out of the devolution agenda, extending the women’s quota in Parliament by two terms and reserving 10 extra seats in the National Assembly for youths. The women’s quota was set to expire in 2023.
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.
Residents who attended the discussion said that this Bill should not be endorsed as it threatens their freedoms and democracy in the country as power will be consolidated in the executive. There is a risk of abuse of power by the executive to the detriment of the citizens. They said that awareness should be created and everyone should be urged to take action and ensure that these proposed amendments does not pass into law.
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