Zimbabwe rivals agree on constitutional amendment

HARARE – ZANU PF and the two MDC formations have agreed on Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No 19) Bill to pave way for the implementation of the power-sharing agreement which provides for the post of prime minister and deputy prime ministers.

This followed initial haggling in Pretoria this week between the parties battling to finalise the issue to allow for the formation of an inclusive government.

The Bill will amend the constitution to substitute the Chapter on Citizenship to make it more comprehensive.

It will also make specific provision for the Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

It also provides for the appointment by the president of the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and of members of the Anti-Corruption Commission. This must be done in consultation with the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

It would further provide for the appointment and function of a Zimbabwe Media Commission, and finally it makes certain transitional amendments pursuant to the agreement between Zanu PF and MDC leaders.

In more detail, the individual clauses of the Bill provide as follows: Clause 1 sets out the Bill’s short title, Clause 2 defines a couple of terms for the purpose of this Bill and Clause 3 seeks to substitute Chapter II of the constitution (citizenship) by another making it more comprehensive.

Clause 4 seeks to correct certain cross-references contained in Section 41 of the constitution (which previously cross-referred to members of the House of Assembly only) to make them clearer. For instance, that the “anti-defection” provisions of Section 41(1)(e) apply to elected senators as well as MPs.

Clause 5 seeks to omit from Section 57 (2) of the constitution the incidental reference to the Committee on the Standing Rules and Orders, for which fuller provision is to be made under Clause 6.

Clause 6 seeks to include a new section in the constitution which makes specific provision for the appointment and functions of the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders. For the period during which the inter-party agreements subsist, the composition of this committee will be as specified under sub-clause (2) of this clause.

Clause 7 provides that the appointment by the president of the chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must be done in consultation with the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

Other amendments will fix the term of members of the commission at six years (renewable for one more consecutive term) and specify in broad terms the qualification of members of the commission.

Clause 8 provides that the appointment by the president of the members of the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission must be done in consultation with the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.

Clause 9 provides for the appointment and functions of a new media commission to be called the Zimbabwe Media Commission.

Clause 10 seeks to amend the interpretation section of the constitution by revising the definition of “Committee on Standing Rules and Orders” in conformity with the amendment made under Clause 6.

Clause 11 and 12 will insert a new section and schedule in the constitution providing for certain transitional amendments in connection with the new (but possibly temporary) office of Prime Minister and other matters pursuant to the agreement.

Since it is proposed to hold a referendum on a new constitution within two years, this office may fall away or be retained, depending on the outcome of the referendum. If the referendum rejects the new constitution, or agreement is for any reason terminated, the constitution will continue in force as if not amended by the schedule.

Clause 13 anticipates any legal challenge grounded in Section 31E of the constitution to the validity of anything done pursuant to the exercise of the functions of a vice-president, minister and deputy minister between the date when parliament was dissolved on the 29th March, 2008, and the date when the Bill becomes an Act.

The Bill must first be gazetted, followed by a period of 30 days to allow public scrutiny and observations. This is a constitutional requirement that should happen before it is tabled in parliament where it needs a two thirds majority to pass – meaning it should be supported by both Zanu PF and MDC.

The MDC faction led by Morgan Tsvangirai is keen to open discussion on issues relating to the appointment of governors, ambassadors and who controls the Home Affairs Ministry in charge of the police before it lends its support to the Bill in parliament. – Zimbabwe Independent