Special Publication on Proposed Constitutional Amendments

Will a Constitution amendment make Zimbabwe more democratic?

Leaders of various civil society organisations have described attempts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government to amend the 2013 national Constitution as a mockery to democracy as amendments will erode the democratic gains achieved in 2013 when a people driven constitution was voted for by at least 94 percent of voters during the constitutional referendum.

The proposed amendments approved by Cabinet in December 2019 relate to the appointments of Vice Presidents, the Prosecutor General, Public Protector, promotion of judges and the terms of office of judges.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Chairperson Rashid Mahiya reminded government and political parties that the 2013 constitution was a result of various contributions by citizens and as such any amendments to the Constitution must seek to further entrench democracy and deepen the enjoyment of rights by citizens.

“We remind political parties and Cabinet that the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe was bred out of popular and concerted advocacy by citizens and civil society and through its adoption in 2013 is an expression of the will of citizens. In our view, the proposed amendments seek to entrench the interests of individuals and dent the independence of an already captured judiciary”, said Mahiya. He added that “As an umbrella body of civic society organizations in Zimbabwe advocating for democratic development, we reiterate that the preservation and full implementation of the Constitution is a duty of every citizen regardless of political preferences and that the Constitution, if fully implemented and adhered to, is a lasting solution to Zimbabwe’s problems.”

In a statement, the Law Society of Zimbabwe also indicated that there is need to guard the constitution jealously.

“The proposed amendments to the Constitution at most, are unnecessary, retrogressive and are not in the interest of transparency, good governance and respect for the rule of law. Accordingly, the LSZ categorically denounces them.”

The Law Society of Zimbabwe further emphasised that the provisions to the Constitution ought to be guarded jealously…and protected in pursuance of the supremacy of the rule of law. Any proposed amendments to the Constitution should be for the people and by the people.

Speaking to New Zimbabwe.com recently ERC Director Tawanda Chimhini said more had to be done in strengthening the Constitution instead of creating a wall on other stakeholders who supported the Constitution in 2013.

“It is disturbing that the same government that is calling for dialogue and national cohesion on one hand is shutting the door on all other stakeholders in an important exercise such as amending a

Constitution that was overwhelmingly supported by Zimbabweans in 2013,” Chimhini said.

“While recognising that government can initiate changes to the legislation, political context of extreme polarisation and encouragement for Zimbabweans to work together by regional partners, Zanu PF and government would have more to gain from an inclusive approach to changing policies than stubbornly doing it alone banking on their parliamentary majority.

“It is of great concern that the developments are coming at a time when reforms should define the country’s attempt to extricate itself from current challenges including international isolation clawing back the gains of the 2013 Constitution will only serve to widen the rift between those in authority and those outside of it.”

The ERC director said judges who are appointed at the discretion of the Executive undermined perceptions of fairness in the event of disputed elections given that the Executive is an interested party in elections.

“It is unfortunate that the proposed changes have a direct bearing on future elections particularly on issues of inclusion and election dispute resolution given the disputed nature of previous ones.

“The ERC would have hoped that any constitutional changes, once deemed to be necessary and priority seek to strengthen the credibility of future election processes rather than weaken them.”

Gwanda Residents Trust Director Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo rejected in totality constitutional amendments proposed by government.

“We feel that the government or rather ZANU PF failed to consult with regards to constitutional amendments. The amendments that they are focusing on are not people driven but rather efforts by ZANU PF to strengthen its hold on power. Stakeholders within residents associations will agree with me that what we need amendments to section 14 of the constitution to allow for smooth devolution. This was totally ignored based on the current proposed amendments. We therefore reject the proposed amendments in totality. They are not people driven and do not reflect the will of the people who were at the center of this constitution when it was developed.”

Charles Thole, a Regional Officer for Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust indicated that the constitution amendments are not appealing to the people and therefore “we reject the amendments. In fact we do not need amendments now. We actually call for the full implementation of the constitution.”

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Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition