via New constitution fully operational after swearing-in of Mugabe | SW Radio Africa By Tichaona Sibanda
The country’s new constitution became fully operational on Thursday following the swearing-in ceremony of President Robert Mugabe in Harare.
The new charter, which took almost four years to draft, will replace the peace-pact Lancaster House constitution crafted in 1979 to end the bush war of the 1970’s. The old constitution was amended 19 times to entrench Mugabe and ZANU PF’s rule.
Thursday’s inauguration of Mugabe for his 7th term in succession was the first time the ZANU PF leader took the oath of office under a constitution that limits his presidency to two five years terms. He would be 99 years old at the end of two terms.
Douglas Mwonzora, one of the chief architects of the constitution, told SW Radio Africa that while some sections of the constitution went into force when Mugabe signed it into law three months ago, the whole charter is now in use.
Among other changes, the constitution provides more rights for women, and it increases the power of parliament.
However, there are some clauses within the constitution that will only be operational in seven or ten years’ time. The composition of the judges who sit in the Constitutional Court will be revisited in 2020, while the running mate issue will only be considered in 2023.
‘These were compromises that came out of negotiations of the new constitution. We simply could not see the collapse of the new constitution because of ZANU PF’s succession battles so we came to an understanding that a President will choose his or her running mate in ten years’ time,’ Mwonzora said.
The outgoing deputy Justice Minister, Obert Gutu from the MDC-T, said while ZANU PF enjoys now enjoys a two thirds majority in parliament, they would find it difficult to amend some aspects of the constitution, even if there are sections they don’t like.
Clauses like the Bill of Rights cannot be amended through a parliamentary majority and have to go to a referendum.
But Gutu said there are other things they can do to effect change: ‘We have a section like 59 of the constitution that stipulates that Zimbabweans have the right to demonstrate if the demonstration is going to be peaceful.
‘This is where I see ZANU PF tightening up legislation like POSA and AIPPA to make it difficult for any dissenting voices to operate.’
Gutu, a lawyer by profession, said he believed the ruling party will buttress the already existing draconian laws, to safeguard their stay in power.