BY SILENCE MUGADZAWETA
THE controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2 sailed through the National Assembly yesterday with 191 legislators voting for its passage while 22 opposed, paving way for it to be debated in Senate.
The Bill, which critics feel is meant to consolidate President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s hold on power, passed without the running mate clause, but maintained provisions which give the President unfettered powers to handpick judges as well as extend their term of office even after turning 70.
The Bill now awaits Senate approval before being signed into law.
Currently, chapter 5 of the Constitution has a provision for presidential candidates to nominate two vice-presidential candidates.
In the event of the President ceasing to hold office before the end of his or her term, the first Vice-President takes over as President for the remainder of the President’s term.
The Bill also seeks to clip Parliament’s powers to approve the signing of international treaties.
Clause 23 of the Bill proposes to alter section 327(3) of the Constitution so that it applies only to agreements entered into with “international organisations” such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank whose members include foreign States.
Section 327(3) will no longer apply to agreements with foreign banks or similar non-State institutions even if the agreements impose fiscal obligations on Zimbabwe.
Hence Parliament will no longer have the constitutional power to approve loan agreements with such non-State institutions.
Legal watchdog, Veritas said the Bill had been hurried, omitting requirements for the Speaker of Parliament to give at least 90 days’ notice in the Government Gazette of “the precise terms of the Bill” allowing the public to see precisely what amendments are proposed and giving them three months to discuss the amendments and lobby their Members of Parliament for or against them.
“The haste with which the Bill is being rushed through Parliament is almost indecent. It is certainly inappropriate for a Bill that will amend the Constitution, the country’s supreme law. So rushed has the process been that members were given no proper notice of the minister’s amendments, and some additional amendments were made to the Bill that were not notified in the day’s Order Paper — one member pointed out that she had not been allowed time to give proper notice of the amendments she proposed,” Veritas said.
Added Veritas: “It is important to note that ‘the precise terms’ of a Constitution Amendment Bill must be published in the Gazette at least 90 days before in the Bill presented to Parliament. The public must be told exactly what amendments are going to be made to the Constitution and be given opportunities and facilities to debate them. This would be wholly defeated if the government were allowed to amend the Bill out of all recognition after it was presented in Parliament. Suppose, for example, the government were to publish a Bill that proposed simply to change the title of the deputy chief justice to assistant chief justice, and then when the Bill passed through Parliament the minister were to get it amended to abolish the Senate and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission: could it possibly be said that those amendments were lawful? Surely not.”
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