Special Publication on Proposed Constitutional Amendments (Part 2)

Experts Urge Citizens to Reject Mnangagwa’s Constitutional Amendments

President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s desire to amend the Constitution continues to face resistance as legal and political experts have called upon citizens to reject the proposed Constitutional Amendments during public hearings which are expected to be conducted by parliament between 29 March and 4 April 2020.

They argue that the proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 is largely about enhancing the power of the executive, consolidating dictatorship, weakening parliament oversight and negatively impacting on the independence of the judiciary and the principle of separation of powers – a view that is shared by several stakeholders across the country.

Speaking at a recent public dialogue meeting organised by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Election Resource Centre and the Heal Zimbabwe Trust, the experts accused Mnangagwa of hurriedly proposing amendments to the Constitution before its full implementation.

The development has also left Mnangagwa isolated as key members of his Political Actors Dialogue forum (POLAD), which has been accused of singing praise to Mnangagwa, dismissed in totality his proposed amendments.

So grave is the matter that some of the POLAD members have threatened to pull out of the dialogue forum if Mnangagwa proceeds with his proposed amendments.

Professor Lovemore Madhuku, a law expert and President of the National Constitutional Assembly and also POLAD member accused Mnangagwa and his ZANU PF party for proposing amendments “for nothing less than to show that they are in power and control of government.”

He added: “A Constitution is not a simple document that can just be amended at will, It must be somewhat sacred. Now it does not mean that it must not be changed but simply that it must be a fairly respectable document which you ordinarily ought not to interfere with. And when you visit it, you ought to realise that this document has nothing to do with the government of the day, that these set of rules go beyond the government of the day. It will be extremely rare for those that you elect for a five-year term to think about amending the Constitution.”

Madhuku also reminded citizens that what Mnangagwa is doing is not new as his ZANU PF party has been securing its interests through amending the Constitution.

“We have a problem with the government that has been running our country since 1980. They don’t respect the view that a constitution is higher than other laws. They take the view that a constitution is like any other law and if elected (their) my first target is the constitution just to show that they are in power and in control of government.”

The professor also clarified that the reason why the constitution amendments should be rejected is that they are being driven by the government of the day of which has no business in amending the Constitution as the amendment process should be people driven.

“We are saying no to an amendment that is dominated by the government of the day but yes to an amendment that is dominated by the people”, said Madhuku in closing.

Jealousy Mawarire, a political analyst and Spokesperson of National Patriotric Front indicated that there is no basis for Mnangagwa’s proposed amendments hence they should be rejected.

“In refusing the amendments being promulgated by Amendment No. 2 Bill, you look at some of the issues around the appointment of judges. The president want powers to appoint and even appoint beyond the prescribed age of 70 years. It is very clear why they are doing that, they have compromised the judiciary even after the coup. They do not want the burden of starting to compromise new people, so they would rather carry on with those that are already compromised.

“So the easiest way is to amend the Constitution so that they remain with Malaba and all the other judges that are compromised. We have judges that presided over an application that the coup was constitutional. I have never seen a constitutional coup because what I know in any coup that I have read about is that the first thing that you subvert is a constitution. We have heard honourable (Job) Sikhala being arrested for suggesting that we should remove ED (President Mnangagwa) and some of the people that are saying you can not remove a constitutionally elected President were the ones that were at the forefront in November 2017 removing a constitutionally elected president and you wonder, do we read the same constitution?

“…let us take take the opportunity, cease the opportunity that has been opened up about these purported amendments to discuss the discourse on amending the constitution that we have but let us not allow ZANU PF to run with the agenda of amending the constitution. Let us resist that.

“We do not want a situation where if someone is afraid of Chiwenga (VP), he says no I do not want a running mate because if we win Chiwenga would kill me and take over me. So in order for me to circumvent that let me change the Constitution from the current running mate clause and give myself powers to appoint. That is not a principle that I think we should entertain as citizens and political players,” said Mawarire.

MDC Alliance Legislator Hon Khucaca Phulu argued that there is no basis for Mnangagwa’s proposed amendments except that of weakening all other institutions and strengthening the president.

“If you look at the amendments, they tend to strengthen the president and weaken the judiciary. They weaken everyone else. So this amendment is a symptom of an illegitimate president who is attacking the constitution. A legitimate president will not attack the constitution. So we are seeing the evidence of the illegitimacy in the manner how he treats the constitution. We are consolidating the coup, there was also the stolen election and now we are consolidating the power of the stolen election. We therefore reject Constitutional Amendment No 2 hook line and sinker. If there are any journeying amendments that we feel ought to come back then those amendments must come respectfully. Our message is let us implement, learn lessons and come back to talk about these amendments.”

He added: “This (Constitutional Amendment Bill No.2) document I characterise it as a dangerous document, a document formulated by someone who is illegitimate and who is trying to deflect from the crises of governance that the we have as a country.”

Representing MDC-T, Ms Priscilla Misihairambwi said: “We can not go for this amendment without changing the electoral system. These are the conversations that we need to begin making. If this amendment is going to come back, let it be the answer to the electoral system.”

Download full document here (979KB PDF)

Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition