WASHINGTON DC —
First Lady Grace Mugabe continues to make headlines with her calls for Vice President Joice Mujuru to step down, and calling out by name, provincial chairpersons she accuses of forging ties with Mrs. Mujuru to unseat her husband, President Robert Mugabe.
The first lady’s no-holds barred stance has won her both criticism and praise.
For perspective on the first lady’s approach and role in the country’s politics, Studio 7’s Ndimyake Mwakalyelye spoke with South African-based analysts, independent political commentator Paul Rumema Chimosva and Professor Tendai Chari, media studies lecturer at the University of Venda.
The first lady claims that Mrs. Mujuru is corrupt, incompetent and attempting to unseat President Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for more than 34 years.
CONSTITUTION AND MUJURU'S REMOVAL
Some political analysts say her calls are in vain as the president does not have constitutional powers to fire her deputy.
But according to constitutional expert, Alex Magaisa, who wrote an article for a local publication, there are two contrasting ways of handling the issue.
“…. by some errors of omission, the Constitution provides for two contrasting methods of removing the vice president from office – one, under Section 97 of the Constitution, which is more onerous and another, under Section 14(2) of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, which is simpler and less onerous.”
Section 97 deals with the removal from office of the president or vice president. There are four grounds that are mentioned in this section which include serious misconduct; failure to obey, uphold or defend the constitution; willful violation of the constitution; and inability to perform the function of the office because of physical or mental incapacity.
The procedure for removing the vice president on these grounds is that an investigation will be launched if at least half of the total membership of the National Assembly and Senate, sitting jointly pass a resolution that the vice president should be investigated on any of these grounds.
This investigation must be carried out by a nine-member joint committee that is drawn from both Houses and chosen by the Committee of Standing Orders and Rules of Parliament (the Joint Committee).
“This joint committee must reflect the political composition of parliament, meaning all parties in parliament must be represented, presumably on a pro rata basis. If the joint committee makes a recommendation for removal, the matter will be placed before a joint sitting of the National Assembly and the Senate, who must pass a resolution for removal supported by at least a two-thirds majority of the total membership.
“The net effect is that this is an onerous procedure, particularly the requirement of the joint resolution which demands a two-thirds majority vote,” writes Magaisa.
He says the situation is worsened by the suspension of Section 92 of the constitution, which deals with presidential runningmates that was suspended for 10 years under some provisions of the supreme law.
“The problem is that while Section 92 which suspends the running-mates method of electing the president and his deputies is specifically suspended for 10 years, Section 97 which deals with the removal of the president and the vice president is not specifically suspended. It seems to me that the onerous character of the removal procedure under Section 97 was based on the notion that the vice president was an elected person under Section 92. Therefore, since Section 92 was suspended for 10 years, then so should have been Section 97 in respect of vice president. I believe the failure to suspend the operation of Section 97 in respect of vice president was a drafting omission.”
However, he says there is a simpler way of going around this problem under Section 14(2) of the Sixth Schedule, which “prevails, to the extent of any inconsistency, over all other provisions of this Constitution”
Section 14(2) of the Sixth Schedule provides that the person who is elected as president, “must appoint not more than two vice presidents, who hold office at his or her pleasure”. It was in accordance with this provision that President Mugabe appointed Joice Mujuru as vice president of Zimbabwe after the July 31 election.
According to Magaisa, this provision deals with more than just the appointment of a vice president as it also includes a provision for the person’s removal from office.
PLEASURE OF HOLDING OFFICE
He says the salient detail refers to people appointed to the vice presidential post “who hold office at his or her pleasure”.
Magaisa says, “These words suggest a power to dismiss the person from office whenever the appointing authority wishes to do so. If you hold office at the pleasure of another person, it means that person can dismiss you from that position, if he or so wishes to do so and no longer wants you in that position. In other words, there is no clear and set limit to the time that the person occupies that particular office.
“Under this interpretation, it means that the president can dismiss the vice president if he no longer has confidence in him or her. In other words, in this case, VP Mujuru holds office at President Mugabe’s pleasure.”
Magaisa, adds that “this means since there is an inconsistency between Section 97 of the Constitution and Section 14(2) of the Sixth Schedule, it is the latter that prevails in this situation. In other words, between the onerous method of removal under Section 97 and the less onerous provision of removal under Section 14(2) of the Sixth Schedule, it is the less onerous method that is applicable in the current circumstances.
“The fact is we have two contrasting methods of dealing with the removal of the vice president, the onerous method under Section 97 and the less onerous one under Section 14(2) of the Sixth Schedule. The question is: Which of these two prevails? Normally, where there is a conflict between a substantive provision of the Constitution, such as Section 97 and a provision in a schedule, then the substantive provision should prevail. However, the matter is easily resolved in the current situation.”