|File picture: President Emmerson Mnangagwa|
…as ruling party ignores citizens’ voices, railroads constitutional changes
The sailing through Parliament, of the Zimbabwe Constitutional Amendment Bill Number II, which among other things, gives President Emmerson Mnangagwa unfettered powers over the appointment and promotion of judges has been widely viewed as retrogressive and a way of creating a dictator.
The Bill, which now awaits the Senate nod, deletes the running mate clause, okays the promotion of judges without public interviews, extends the women’s quota system to 2023, introduces the women’s quota in local authorities and also speaks to the youth quota system.
Political analyst Dr Takavafira Zhou said the constitutional amendments were self-defeating for Zanu PF which claims to have ushered in a ‘new dispensation’ saying they were retracing their footsteps back to the Mugabe days where they made him a dictator and ultimately the country’s worst nightmare.
“The amendment allows the President to appoint members of the judiciary without going through interview process as outlined in the current constitution.
“There is therefore a danger of the President staffing the judiciary with his cronies that can be used to his advantage in Zanu PF succession wars and to further amend constitution and entrench Zanu PF hegemonic power and deal with opposition.
“In most countries constitutional changes are not restricted to Parliament and Senate but referendum,” said Dr Zhou.
He said Zanu PF was abusing its parliamentary majority to stifle democracy and creating a one centre of power leads to dictatorship.
“Zanu PF is abusing its dominance of parliament to stifle democracy. The changes are entrenching the executive powers of the President that will see his dominance in the judiciary and compromising the separation of powers in the executive, judiciary and legislature that must safeguard democracy.
“This is the same behavior which created a dictator in the late former president Mugabe,” said Dr Zhou.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum (The Forum), in a statement, said that the passing of the Bill was a clear sign of democratic deterioration as it did not give time for people’s opinions and full participation.
“The procedure adopted in fast-tracking the Bill through Parliament is unlawful and unconstitutional as it contravenes Subsections 328 (3) and (4) of the Constitution…passage of the bill marks a clear sign of democratic relapse.
“The Bill had been amended outside its original form days before the vote was passed through parliament without the requisite 90-day notice period, to invite members of the public to express their opinions on the revisions to the original bill.
“The Bill wholesomely undermines separation of powers, checks and balances, citizen participation, parliamentary oversight and independence of institutions.
“It is clear that the bill seeks to consolidate and solidify the President’s position ahead of the 2023 elections and beyond,” said The Forum.
Zanu PF national Secretary for Legal Affairs Paul Mangwana, who was one of the chief architects of the 2013 Constitution, once remarked, at a workshop organized by TellZim News, that the amendments were necessary as Zanu PF was doing away with some sections which they were against and had to only accept for progress’ sake.
“We were given the power by the people and we are using that power. There are sections in that constitution which we were against but we just had to negotiate at the time.
“Now that we have the power we are making corrections and it can only be done when you have majority in parliament. It would be foolish not to use the power given to us by the people,” said Mangwana.
During the outreach to consult citizens on the contentious amendments, many people roundly rejected the changes which they said would reverse the country’s delicate and young constitutional achievements.