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46 Zimbabwe NGOs Express Dismay Over Passing of Bill ‘Giving Too Much Power’ to Nation’s President

FILE: Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa prepares to inspect the guard of honour at the National Sports Staduim in Harare, Wednesday, April, 18, 2018.
FILE: Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa prepares to inspect the guard of honour at the National Sports Staduim in Harare, Wednesday, April, 18, 2018.

Forty-six Civil Society Organizations have expressed concern over the passing of the Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number 2) by Zimbabwe’s National Assembly, which will eliminate the presidential running mate clause in the country’s supreme law and give the president power to appoint members of the judiciary.

In a statement, the CSOs said, “It is very disturbing that the proposed amendments to the Constitution are being introduced at a time when the May 2013 Constitution has not been fully implemented. The amendments relate to critical thematic areas that include the appointment and retirement of members of the judiciary, appointment of the head of prosecution, removal of running mate provisions, extension of proportional representation provisions for female parliamentarians, composition of executive and legislative oversight role among other amendments.”

They urged all progressive citizens to reject this Bill, which they claim, reverses the gains that were ushered in by the 2013 Constitution.

“The adoption of this Bill will undoubtedly centralise too much power in the executive, particularly the President. Besides widening the scope of Presidential powers and undermining democratic accountability, this Bill unilaterally increases the size of central government and imposes an unprecedented burden on the already suffering citizenry. Taxpayers will bear the primary burden of a bloated government.

“The proposed amendments on the promotion of judges to the superior courts and extension of tenure of office for judges over 70 years will greatly compromise the independence of the judiciary. The proposed sections of the Amendment Bill are a backward step in the pursuit of democracy, accountability, the divisions of governmental power, representativeness, the rule of law and human rights in Zimbabwe.”

The CSOs noted that the adoption of the Bill entails further strengthening of the president’s powers while weakening the mechanisms intended to hold the president to account for his or her actions, wrongdoing and in some cases, illegal conduct.

“The adoption of the Bill also sets precedence to future and further amendments to the Constitution which will additionally undermine the democratic and civic space in Zimbabwe.

“… In essence, the Amendment Bill dilutes democracy, weakens the rule of law and undermines the promotion and protection of human rights in Zimbabwe, particularly those of a civil and political nature. At this juncture, the country is supposed to be focusing on the alignment of laws to the new Constitution, fully implementing provisions of the Constitution and not amending it.”

The CSOs urged the government to align laws with the country’s Constitution crafted by various stakeholders and adopted in 2013.

“The amendments are a mockery to democracy, a recipe for disaster and a violation of the principle of separation of powers.”

Information secretary Nick Mangwana and presidential spokesperson George Charamba were unreachable for comment as they were not responding to calls on their mobile phones.

Zanu PF administration secretary, Obert Mpofu, was also unreachable.

Zanu PF Youth League member, Mabutho Moyo, said his party is happy about the Bill “which contains issues relating to youth and women empowerment in terms of politics.”

He said condemning the Bill is “retrogressive”.

VOA Zimbabwe correspondent Mlondolozi Ndlovu contributed to this article.