We, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (the Forum) say no to the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.2) Bill (“the Bill”) gazetted on the 17th of January 2020. Altogether, the Amendment Bill is made up of 27 sections that propose to amend no less than 30 sections of the Constitution. The proposed amendments are of a fundamental and far-reaching nature interfering with the choice of the citizens who participated in a referendum which birthed the Constitution of 2013 and discarded the Lancaster House Constitution which came into operation on 18 April 1980. The proposed amendments follow the first amendment to the 2013 Constitution which came into effect on 7 September 2017, giving the President powers to unilaterally appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court. If the Bill were to pass through, the government would have amended the Constitution twice within a period of just over six years. The Constitution as the supreme law of the land must not be unnecessarily amended.
Amongst other changes, the omnibus Bill proposes the following: Sweeping changes to allow the President to unilaterally appoint and remove the Vice President(s) outside a popular mandate; Giving the President more powers in the appointment and extension of tenure of judges of superior courts in a way that takes away transparency; Extending the women’s quarter system and creating additional 10 seats for the youths instead of the government fully implementing the equality clause in section 56 of the Constitution; Limiting the powers of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission by placing some of its functions in the hands of a Public Protector appointed solely by the President burdening the fiscus through unnecessary duplication of institutions; Cutting on parliamentary oversight over agreements entered into by the executive with foreign organizations and companies in a way that interferes with transparency; Extending Presidential powers in the appointment and removal of the Prosecutor-General and Extending executive representation by unelected officials in Cabinet increasing burden on the fiscus, among others.
The running theme in the proposed amendments is cutting back on checks and balances and separation of powers. Furthermore, some of the proposed amendments are interfering with provisions that have not been tested yet. The Forum calls for the implementation of the Constitution and says no to tinkering with it.
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Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum (HRForum)