PARLIAMENT was yesterday forced to threaten a State-run radio station with contempt after an audacious attempt to cancel the first-ever broadcast to solicit public views on the amendment of the Constitution.
Source: Parly threatens StarFM with contempt – NewsDay Zimbabwe March 7, 2017
BY VENERANDA LANGA
The public hearing on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill, which was supported by the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust, only went on air an hour after schedule after a bid by Star FM station manager Comfort Mbofana to cancel the broadcast.
A paltry 40-plus people called in to contribute to the first amendment to the Constitution adopted in 2013.
Acting Justice Parliamentary Portfolio Committee chairperson Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga confirmed the hold-up.
“We sat and after 45 minutes, we were told Star FM general manager Comfort Mbofana had called his crew and told them the live broadcast was not going to happen,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
“As a committee, we made a resolution to call Mbofana to explain to him this would result in contempt of Parliament because you do not get MPs to sit, and later, with no proper explanation, you get the event cancelled. This was a paid-for service and they were not doing us a favour.”
The Bill seeks to bring in an amendment that will subordinate the Labour Court and Administrative Court to the High Court.
If passed, it will also change the procedure to fill the positions of Chief Justice (CJ), Deputy Chief Justice (DCJ) and Judge President of the High Court from public interviews to appointment by the President.
The majority of callers yesterday slammed government for dragging its feet in the alignment of the more than 400 statutes to the Constitution.
“We need to understand that this Constitution was made out of the will of the people. The Constitution must not be for the Executive arm of government. It outlives the members of the Executive in power now. It is a sacred document and we are not going to change it to suit the Executive,” a caller said.
Another caller argued that the Constitution was crafted by people that had partisan views and, therefore, needs to be changed (amended) as it is not a “perfect document”.
But his views were dismissed by another caller, who said all political parties in the country were involved in the crafting of the Constitution, adding that amending it now without its implementation would be undemocratic.
“If we centralise power in the hands of the Executive and in the hands of one person, it is dangerous. We need to go back to the system in the current Constitution, where interviews for the CJ, DCJ and Judge President are held through public interviews,” Butler Tambo, from the Centre for Public Engagement, said.
Other callers demanded to know who had suggested the amendments and why they were necessary now.