THE draft constitution sailed through Parliament yesterday with MDC-T Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora saying if passed into law, legislators would be empowered to stop the President from unilaterally dissolving Parliament.
VENERANDA LANGA/EVERSON MUSHAVA
Mwonzora told the House of Assembly that a Constitutional Court comprising legislators would be able to challenge excessive use of Presidential Powers.
He said the court can block the dissolution of Parliament by the President until after a consensus has been reached.
“Dissolution of Parliament under the new draft is not going to be automatic and will be reviewable by the Constitutional Court,” Mwonzora said, giving a summary of the draft charter’s contents.
There were three instances, Mwonzora said, that could render the dissolution of Parliament by the President difficult.
“There is natural dissolution that follows expiry of the government term at midnight before elections; and there is dissolution where Parliament itself votes to be dissolved by a two-thirds majority and this has happened in Japan.
“The third circumstance is when Parliament refuses to pass a budget and in that instance, it means the government is rendered dysfunctional.”
Mwonzora said other improvements in the new draft constitution included provisions spelling out that no military or security organ of the State is established outside the law.
“In terms of the law, it now means I cannot establish my own militia in Nyanga and this is meant to protect the people,” he said.
He said the draft constitution had the most comprehensive Bill of Rights which was second to none on the African continent and the world.
Mwonzora said this was because it dealt with first generation rights like the right to life, freedom of association, including socio-economic rights, and others.
Zanu PF Copac co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana defended the $45 million spent on the constitution-making process, saying democracy did not come cheaply.
“Some people will say why the
$45 million, but I will say democracy is very expensive,” he said.
“It has never come cheap. Some have actually died for it.
“But I am happy that we have spent the money for a good cause. We have delivered the constitution.”
Of the $45 million,$24,7 million came from government while $20 million was funded by donors through the United Nations Development Programme.
Mangwana accused the media of fabricating divisions within Copac and misrepresenting delicate information, an issue he said contributed to the delays in the conclusion of the process.
Meanwhile, legislators from across the political divide fell over each other in praising the draft constitution. But they urged their principals to commit themselves to a culture of constitutionalism.
“This constitution belongs to God. If you do not practice it, you will be cursed by Nebuchadnezzar,” Magwegwe legislator Felix Magalela Sibanda (MDC-T) said.
The draft is now at the Senate before it goes to a referendum whose date is yet to be proclaimed. After its adoption, a Constitutional Bill will be brought before the House by the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Eric Matinenga.
MPs will be allowed to debate on the contents of the draft during the second reading and committee stages.