ZANU PF’s attempts to tinker with the Constitution to extend President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s eligibility to run for office beyond two terms faces a legal hurdle because any changes would not benefit him unless a referendum is held.
BY BLESSED MHLANGA
The ruling party’s secretary for administration Obert Mpofu recently said Zanu PF would use its two-thirds majority in Parliament to extend the presidential term limit beyond the current two terms mandated by the Constitution.
Legal think-tank, Veritas, said while Parliament could extend the current two terms by amending the Constitution, this would not benefit Mnangagwa, but his successors unless there was a referendum.
Veritas said while section 91(2) is not part of the Declaration of Rights nor does it fall within Chapter 16 of the Constitution, it can be amended by a two-thirds majority of both Houses of Parliament to remove the presidential term-limits.
“There is a catch, however. Section 328(7) of the Constitution provides that an amendment to a term-limit provision — and section 91(2) is a term-limit provision — which has the effect of extending the length of time that a person can hold a public office such as the presidency does not apply to anyone who held that office, or an equivalent office, before the amendment. This means that even if two-thirds of the members of Parliament were to pass a Bill extending or revoking the term limits imposed by section 91(2) of the Constitution, the Bill would not permit President Mnangagwa to stand for a third term in office,” Veritas said in its submission.
Section 328(7) is part of the declaration of human rights and can only be amended through a referendum and a two-thirds majority in Parliament.
“The only way to permit him to stand for a third term would be to repeal section 328(7), but this would require a national referendum in addition to a two-thirds majority in Parliament,” Veritas added.
MDC deputy organising secretary and Highfield legislator Happymore Chidziva said it was clear that Zanu PF was after bastardising the Constitution.
“They are not worried about future generations or the development of the country, they just want power in itself. They are prepared to kill, maim and change laws so that they rule forever, but the people will protect the Constitution and at the end of the day, people power will win,” he said.