An opposition Member of Parliament says Zimbabwean lawmakers fed up with President Robert Mugabe’s 35 year rule can unseat the president if a secret ballot is used in a motion to impeach him.
Godfrey Sithole of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai claims that there are some Zanu PF parliamentarians who no longer support the president saying he is no longer capable of properly running the country.
According to Section 97 of the constitution, a president can be removed from office due to physical or mental incapacitation.
It stipulates that “the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least one-half of their total membership, may resolve that the question whether or not the president or a vice-president should be removed from office for serious misconduct; failure to obey, uphold or defend this Constitution; wilful violation of this Constitution or inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity.”
The constitution states that upon the passing of a resolution in terms of Subsection (1) of Section 97, the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders must appoint a joint committee of the Senate and the National Assembly consisting of nine members reflecting the political composition of parliament to investigate the removal from office of the president or vice president as the case may be.
“If the joint committee appointed in terms of Subsection (2) recommends the removal from office of the president or vice-president; and the Senate and the National Assembly, by a joint resolution passed by at least two-thirds of their total membership, resolve that the president or vice-president, as the case may be, should be removed from office; the president or vice-president thereupon ceases to hold office.”
Sithole told VOA Studio 7 this is possible if a secret ballot is conducted. “As opposition MPs we have less numbers compared to Zanu PF and most of the Zanu PF members we have talked to are agreeable to the idea of impeaching the president only on condition that we do it using the secret ballot.”
He said they are worried about the president’s health problems following incidents in which he once fell at Harare Airport and stumbled twice recently when he met some world leaders.
Sithole said this was an indication that the president is no longer able to rule Zimbabwe due to suspected health problems.
But Zanu PF senior member, Effort Nkomo, said Sithole was day-dreaming, noting that there were no solid grounds of impeaching the president.
Nkomo said, “When you look at the constitution it will guide you on why, when or how you can impeach the president but these are baseless grounds for impeaching him. People should learn to be patient and they should wait for their time.”
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku, who was speaking as a lawyer and not leader of the National Constitutional Assembly party, said it is impossible for parliament at the moment to impeach the president.
“It is impossible to impeach him under our current constitution to remove the president from office. It is a very useless constitution. For you to remove the president as parliamentarians you will need to do it through what is called an impeachment.
“Just to get the matter to be debated in parliament you will need one third of the total membership of parliament to be able to introduce a motion for that debate … About 90 MPs will have to sign that to have the matter to be introduced.”
He said if the motion is debated and parliament needs to vote to remove the president, that vote must be supported by two thirds of the total membership which includes the Senate. So, you will need 270 (MPs) plus 80 (Senators). Two thirds … two thirds of that kind of number.
“You will need over 200 something MPs in the country and all these are MPs that are drawn from Zanu PF. Opposition numbers in parliament have gone down.”
As a result, said Madhuku, it is impossible to drum up support for any kind of impeachment based on the current constitutional provisions and large number of Zanu PF MPs and Senators.