No individual has power to block constitution — experts

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Constitutional analysts yesterday said any political party in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) had powers to halt the draft constitution, and threats by President Robert Mugabe to unilaterally block a constitution which disqualified him from standing as presidential candidate would only be valid if Zanu PF as a party did not support the draft in Parliament.

Constitutional lawyers Greg Linington and Lovemore Madhuku told NewsDay in separate interviews yesterday that the success of the Copac-driven constitution would only depend on mutual agreement by the three parties, Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC.

Zanu PF has already threatened it would block any constitution draft that sought to bar their leader, who has just turned 88, from contesting for the presidency.

“The constitution is going to be an agreement between the three political parties in the GPA, not written by an independent body and when President Mugabe threatens to block it, he is not talking of things he can do legally, but that he is part and parcel of the process and any of the parties in the process have powers to bar the constitution,” said Madhuku.

“Presidential powers do not arise in this case because the constitution will be a negotiated process and any party which does not agree with a clause in the draft can simply refuse to sign the document and it halts.”

Linington said there was no way Mugabe could bar the constitution before it was discussed in Parliament.

“Section 52 of the current constitution stipulates that the draft must receive an affirmative two-thirds votes in both the Senate and the House of Assembly. Since there is no party which currently has that two-thirds majority in Parliament, it means it will be a negotiated process,” Linington said.

He said if Mugabe refused to sign the draft, after six months it would go back to Parliament. The two constitutional experts said Mugabe’s only chances of defying the people’s will were to carry out his threats that elections would be held even without a new constitution.

But, Attorney-General Johannes Tomana said since Mugabe was going to be the ultimate signatory on the draft constitution, no one could challenge his decision.

“At the end, all pieces of law must be signed by President Mugabe and everybody else knows he is the ultimate signatory. The constitution is supposed to come from the people and the President has to protect what the people said,” Tomana said.