COPAC Draft: what does it say about the Presidency?

Chapter Five of the Copac Draft outlines the powers, functions and responsibilities of the executive arm of the state. Some of the content of this chapter may have contributed significantly to Zanu (PF)’s decision to unilaterally amend the Copac draft – much to the chagrin of the two MDC formations.\r\n

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The provision for two Vice Presidents was accepted by the two MDC formations after a long battle with Zanu (PF), which was insisting that one Vice President would endanger their so-called unity accord with PF-Zapu. But what has vexed Zanu (PF) most is the provision that: “Every candidate for election as President must nominate two persons to stand for election jointly with him or her as his or her Vice-Presidents, and must designate one of those persons as his or her candidate for first Vice-President and the other as his or her candidate for second Vice-President.” It is feared within Zanu (PF) that the incumbent president might not choose the two running mates from among the two Vice Presidents of that party, and this would play havoc with the party hierarchy.

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The draft also states: “The election of a President and Vice-Presidents must take place concurrently with every general election of Members of Parliament.” What this means, in essence, is that the losing presidential candidates and all their running mates are likely not to become MPs as a result of that specific election. Of course some of them can later be nominated as electoral candidates during by-elections, but there is no guarantee of this. These are some of the provisions that have caused Zanu (PF) to shudder at the prospect of a Yes vote for the Copac draft.

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Related to this fear is the provision that: “Subject to this section, any aggrieved candidate may challenge the validity of an election of a President or Vice-President by lodging a petition or application with the Constitutional Court within seven days after the date of the declaration of the results of the election.” Here again, Zanu (PF) feels highly insecure since it will not be able to adequately influence the Constitutional Court to its advantage. In fact, for this reason, the former liberation party is totally opposed to the creation of a Constitutional Court. It is arguing that this function should remain with the current Supreme Court whose personnel it has strong control over.

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The MDC formations should not accept this. Further, the whole prospect of someone lodging a petition challenging the outcome of a presidential election frightens Zanu (PF) no end, especially where the draft states: “The Constitutional Court must hear and determine a petition or application) within 14 days and the court’s decision is final.” This is certainly too much for a political party that has had its own way for the past 27 odd years.

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With regards to the removal of the President or Vice President from office, the Copac draft states: “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—

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(a) serious misconduct;

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(b) failure to obey, uphold or defend this Constitution;

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(c) wilful violation of this Constitution;

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(d) inability to perform the functions of the office because of physical or mental incapacity; should be investigated in terms of this section.”

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Given Mugabe’s age and health status, it is obviously difficult for his party to accept this provision without a serious fight. We all know that in the next few years, if not months, our Dear Leader will be struggling just to stay awake, let alone to be healthy enough to perform his duties effectively. The subsequent clause provides for the removal of the President or Vice President from office following a two-thirds majority vote in Parliament. With regard to the succession issue, the draft provides as follows: (1) If the President dies, resigns or is removed from office—

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(a) the first Vice-President assumes office as President until the expiry of the former President’s term of office;

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(b) the second Vice-President assumes office as first Vice-President until the expiry of the former President’s term of office; and

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(c) upon assuming office as President, the former first Vice-President must appoint a qualified person to be second Vice-President until the expiry of the former President’s term of office.

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(2) If the first Vice-President dies, resigns or is removed from office—

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(a) the second vice-President assumes office as first Vice-President until the expiry of the former first Vice-President’s term of office; and

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(b) the President must without delay appoint a qualified person to be second Vice-President until the expiry of the former first Vice-President’s term of office.

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Any sensible person would have thought that these provisions would go a long way to resolve Zanu (PF)’s on-going succession wrangle. Sadly, it finds these provisions stifling, if not inhibiting on the President’s current powers to keep his lieutenants guessing as to who will succeed him. We know that currently, the President decides on which of his two Vice Presidents should assume the role of acting President whenever he goes on leave or on state business outside the country.

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Mugabe would like this ridiculous privilege to remain his preserve regardless of whether he will win or lose the next election. One of the most frustrating developments that some of us have witnessed in the past few months is the assumption that whenever the Copac draft talks about the President, those in Zanu (PF) always assume that the document is talking about Mugabe. Little is it ever realised that the Copac document is meant for the nation as a whole and is not pertaining to any individual. Simudzai Mureza wedu we Zimbabwe.

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