BY VENERANDA LANGA
SENATE will today vote for the passage of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 2 Bill, whose proposed amendments have been rejected by civic society groups, the opposition and ordinary citizens due to clauses that seek to give unfettered powers to the Presidency.
Last week, the Committee Stage of the Bill to amend the 2013 Constitution was passed without amendments in Senate due to Zanu PF’s numerical advantage.
On Thursday, opposition MDC senators made spirited attempts to reject clause 13 of the Bill, which deals with the tenure of the office of judges and their retirement age, which has been pushed from 70 to 75 years.
Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi told senators that the tenure of Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judges would only be 15 years.
Ziyambi said after 15 years, ConCourt judges, who still wished to serve and were under the retirement age could serve at the Supreme Court if there was a vacancy, or the High Court up to retirement age.
“The second provision on the tenure of judges is the age limit which affects all judges — and that judges retire on reaching the age of 70 and we are saying in this amendment, we want to up it to 75. This is the provision that is being amended by Amendment Number 2. It is of age limit and not term limit, which was not covered before by section 328 of the Constitution,” he said.
Midlands senator Morgen Komichi (MDC-T) raised concern over the proposed changes, saying it was difficult to understand why the retirement age for judges should be raised from 70 to 75.
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“Is it the shortage of the people in Zimbabwe? Is it the shortage of qualified judges in Zimbabwe? Surely, when a person reaches 70 years, he is old, mentally weak and physically weak in terms of undertaking real work. We know in general, people retire at 65 years simply because they cannot carry out tough jobs,” Komichi said, adding that it was difficult for old people to comprehend issues, and to use modern electronic gadgets.
MDC-T leader and Manicaland senator Douglas Mwonzora said: “Today, they have extended term limits for judges, tomorrow they will do it for commissioners, the President and they will do it for everybody else.”
But Ziyambi quashed their arguments saying that there was a good reason why judges were ordinarily not young people.
“Judges are not per se young people and there is a reason for that. We decide on mature people: firstly, because they are not even chasing after money, so the older the judge is the better in terms of dispensing their work. The younger they are, the more dangerous they are,” Ziyambi said.
The House had to be divided and 45 Zanu PF senators voted for passage of clause 13 of the Bill to raise the retirement age of judges, while 19 voted against the clause.
The Third Reading Stage to pass the constitutional amendments will take place today.