CSOs condemn constitutional amendments

Source: CSOs condemn constitutional amendments | Newsday (News)

BY SILAS NKALA

CIVIL society organisations (CSOs) have accused MPs of abandoning the interests of people who voted them into power by supporting constitutional changes aimed at consolidating power in the office of the presidency.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi is currently leading a parliamentary process to effect 27 changes to the Constitution adopted by majority vote in a 2013 referendum.

MDC-T MPs recently backed the Zanu PF legislators to pass the controversial Constitutional Amendment No 2 Bill, which is now in Second Reading Stage in Senate.

The CSOs urged citizens to reject the amendments through legal means and called on State actors to fully implement provisions of the Constitution before the governance charter can be amended.

“We note with serious concern the passing of the controversial Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2 by the National Assembly on April 20, 2021,” the CSOs said in a joint statement.

“It is very disturbing that the proposed amendments to the Constitution are being introduced at a time when the May 2013 Constitution has not been fully implemented.”

The CSOs singled out critical thematic areas that include the appointment and retirement of members of the Judiciary, appointment of the head of prosecution, removal of running mate clause, extension of proportional representation provisions for female parliamentarians, composition of executive and legislative oversight role among other amendments as the most
detrimental.

Since the introduction of the Bill, the CSOs said they had expressed their reservations on the process and made several calls on all progressive citizens and duty bearers to reject the Bill.

They said the adoption of this Bill would centralise too much power in the Executive, particularly the President.

“Besides widening the scope of Presidential powers and undermining democratic accountability, this Bill unilaterally increases the size of central government and imposes an unprecedented burden on the already suffering citizenry. Taxpayers will bear the primary burden of a bloated government,” the CSOs said.

“The proposed amendments on the promotion of judges to the superior courts and extension of tenure of office for judges over 70 years will greatly compromise the independence of the Judiciary.

“The proposed sections of the Amendment Bill are a backward step in the pursuit of democracy, accountability, the divisions of governmental power, representativeness, the rule of law and human rights in Zimbabwe.”

They warned that the adoption of the Bill entailed further strengthening of the President’s powers while weakening the mechanisms intended to hold the office holder to account.

“The adoption of the Bill also sets precedence to future and further amendments to the Constitution which will additionally undermine the democratic and civic space in Zimbabwe,” the CSOs said.

“At this juncture, the country is supposed to be focusing on the alignment of laws to the new Constitution, fully implementing provisions of the Constitution and not amending it. We the undersigned CSOs in Zimbabwe call for alignment of laws with the Constitution.

“The amendments are a mockery to democracy, a recipe for disaster and a violation of the principle of separation of powers.”

The CSOs involved include Abammeli Rights Lawyers Network,  Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Build A Better Youth- Zimbabwe,  Buhera Residents Association, Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association,  Chitungwiza Community Development Network, Chinhoyi Residents Trust,  Chitungwiza Residents Trust, Combined Harare Residents Association, Combined Restitution Association for Zimbabwean Youths, Counselling Services Unit and Economic Justice for Women among several others.

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