Breaking down Constitutional Amendment number two

by | Apr 22, 2021 | Local News, Politics | 0 comments

Hosia Mviringi

The Zimbabwean constitution is undergoing changes, being effected to ensure that the document –which carries the country`s supreme law- speaks to our collective aspirations.
The 2013 Zimbabwe Constitution, which replaced the Lancaster House Constitution, was crafted as an attempt to embrace International Best practices, which of course have proved to be incompatible with our unique circumstances and realities on the ground.
This created an impetus for the current progressive moves to amend and fine-tune the constitution.
Below is a step-by-step explanation on the utility of the amendments being pursued.

Appointment of Judges
One of the most important pillars of the State is the Judiciary.
When President Mnangagwa assumed power in July 2018, he made several binding promises to the people of Zimbabwe, some of which require the cooperation, loyalty and competency of the judiciary, such as the fight against corruption.
This becomes particularly important especially in situations where the efficient and expeditious deployment of Judicial officers is necessary.
This improves efficiency in service delivery as compared to the current requirement for inglorious cumbersome public interviews for judges.
To allay any fears, a comparison may be necessary, for example, all judges that sit in the Supreme Court and Constitutional Courts of Zimbabwe were appointed.
They didn not go through public interviews, but that has not stopped them from making rulings against the State on merit.
In the United States of America, Supreme Court judges serve for life. They don’t redo interviews regardless of who the President is.
In any case, the Constitution empowers the President to choose one Judge out of the top three interview candidates, or to reject them all, and that restores his powers as appointing authority.
The nation holds the President to account for failure to deliver on his promises, and as such, it is in the President’s and the nation’s best interest that he be accorded a chance to choose his best team to work with for efficient delivery of his mandate.
Thus the provision for such freedom and mandate in the new clauses.

Running mate clause

The running mate provision for choosing a Vice President which is set to be repealed by this Constitution Amendment Bill.
Having a running mate at elections is as dangerous to the nation as it is undemocratic because a running mate almost automatically becomes the next President if anything happens to the incumbent.

It is undemocratic in the sense that it empowers the President to single-handedly decide on succession.
The nation will be forced to accept the running mate as the next President even though they did not choose him or her for that role.
When a President appoints his deputy, if they fail or fall, they go together and the nation retains the power to choose a new leader.
This becomes the most democratic procedure for filling up leadership gaps at the top.
A sitting president, as is the case in many jurisdictions, must have the power to choose his close lieutenants who mostly share the same vision and vigour to deliver on national goals.
A hired shepherd may not be the best for such a critical position.
Thus, the President deserves a chance to determine the calibre of officers to work around and with him for a coherent national goal.

Women and youth provisions

Women and youths are a very important part of our demographics as a nation. They constitute 55 per cent of the total population while youths, both girls and boys aged between 18-35 years constitute 60 per cent of the population.
Traditionally and culturally women and youths have occupied a lesser influential position in society despite the important role they play in national development.
Women are natural leaders as they are leaders in most African family settings while the youth represent the most active and productive constituency of our population.
These two subgroups cannot afford to take a back seat if meaningful national development is to be achieved.
Therefore, it became imperative for government to take deliberate affirmative action as a form of empowerment for the two subgroups.
In a way, the President recognises that women, as a demographic that have been historically marginalised and overlooked in leadership positions, need to be hand-held, promoted and shepherded into leadership positions, both in government and society in general, for a further two Parliamentary terms.

Re-establishment of the Office of the Public Protector

The Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment Bill number 2 seeks to re-establish the Office of Public Protector after having abolished the Office of the Ombudsman in 2013.

In 2013, then, the general feeling was that probably the functions of the then Ombudsman were best executed under the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission as a way of doing away with duplication of roles.

Along the way, it was discovered that the ZHRC was now almost overwhelmed by political cases at the expense of civil cases which protect mostly the poor and vulnerable members of society who don’t afford legal representation.

When the office of the Ombudsman was abolished, its functions were split between the ZHRC and the office of the Auditor-General. This created confusion among citizens who did not know which office to approach anymore.
There was close to zero awareness of the availability of these services to the public.

It is because of these reasons and more that the Office of the Public Protector is being reintroduced through the Zimbabwe Constitution Amendment Bill number 2 of 2019.

Under the present circumstances, it is necessary to have a Public Protector whose powers and functions derive from the Constitution.

Some of the functions of the Public Protector’s Office include protecting citizens against excesses or deficiencies of the State through its actors that include but are not limited to its agencies and the three pillars.
Under the envisaged settings, the Office of the Public Protector and ZHRC will now play complementary roles where they refer cases to one another for investigation where cases pertinent to the other body are received by the other.

Criteria for Provincial Councils

Under the Amendment Bill, all persons eligible for election as Members of the National Assembly are inelligible for appointment as members of a Provincial Council.
This is specifically so you avoid conflict of interests and conflation of duties.

Appointments of Senior Civil Servants

Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet, as the most senior member of the Public Service, and his deputies, shall be appointed by the President in consultation with the Public Service Commission.
All Permanent Secretaries to Ministries shall report to him on any matters affecting them as a class.
Terms and conditions of service of the Chief Secretary shall be fixed by the President.