Biti challenges first constitutional amendment
LAWYER and People’s Democratic Party leader, Tendai Biti (pictured) is preparing a court challenge to stop the gazetting of Constitution Amendment Number 1 Bill, arguing that the proposed law was not passed by a two-thirds majority in both Houses of Parliament as required by the Constitution.
by PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
Constitutional Amendment Number 1 seeks to give the President unfettered powers in selecting and appointing three top judges — the Deputy Chief Justice, Chief Justice and Judge President.
The Bill was passed by the Senate last week and is now waiting for Presidential assent before it is gazetted to become law.
Biti yesterday confirmed preparing the court application that could be filed next week.
“I am working on the papers to challenge the amendment. The Bill was passed without the requisite numbers,” he said.
The planned challenge comes barely a week after Veritas issued an opinion saying the Bill was open to challenge until the numbers could be verified, as there seemed to be discrepancies in meeting the two-thirds majority required in both Houses.
“The framing is similar, we are certain they did not have the numbers,” Biti said.
Veritas, in their argument, said for the Bill to be passed by the Senate it needed 54 affirmative votes and not 53 who voted yes.
“The phrase is not used in section 328(5), which requires a Bill amending the Constitution to be passed by two-thirds of the membership of each House sitting separately,” Veritas, a legal think-tank, said.
“Section 344(4) does not apply to constitutional Bills.
“Section 120 of the Constitution says the Senate consists of 80 members.
“Therefore, the Bill had to be passed by 54 Senators.”
The lawyers grouping also questioned the numbers that passed the Bill in the National Assembly.
“Two Zanu PF representatives, who were listed in votes and proceedings as having voted for the Bill, were, it is claimed, out of the country — in Uganda on parliamentary business,” Veritas said.
“It is also claimed that an MDC member was incorrectly listed as voting for the Bill.”