HARARE – The country’s main opposition parties have reacted angrily to plans by the ruling Zanu PF to use its majority in Parliament to scrap a constitutional provision that devolves powers to provinces.
Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda, let the cat out of the bag when he beseeched lawmakers recently to urgently amend Chapter 14 of the Constitution in response to a request by the Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa.
Chinamasa had asked the National Assembly to consider doing away with the clause, arguing that it has created a heavy burden on the fiscus.
Chapter 14 of the national charter deals with devolution of governmental powers.
It provides for the creation of eight provincial councils with 10 councillors each envisaged to be elected through proportional representation.
It further creates two metropolitan provincial councils in Harare and Bulawayo to be chaired by the mayors of these respective cities.
Less than two months after presenting his budget, Chinamasa has found support in Mudenda.
This week, the Speaker said there was need to amend this Chapter to achieve a lean provincial administration, such must be done urgently so that the government can act within the constraints of the nation purse.
The mooted amendment has sparked an outcry from opposition parties who described it as a betrayal to the people of Zimbabwe.
MDC national spokesperson Obert Gutu said devolution was a popular sentiment among the majority of Zimbabweans during the Constitution-making process thus the decision to amend its provisions is unfortunate and regrettable.
“Removal of the devolution provision is tantamount to usurping the people’s power and popular sentiment. Only a fascist and totalitarian regime will be interested in doing away with the devolution provision,” remarked Gutu.
“The argument that the government doesn’t have money to fund devolution is spurious and utterly nonsensical. If government funds are properly utilised, there will be more than enough money available to operationalise devolution,” he added.
Spokesperson of the MDC Bulawayo province Felix Mafa Sibanda yesterday accused government of dishonesty.
“The amendment is tantamount to the betrayal of people of Matabeleland specifically and Zimbabwe generally. Six out 10 provinces accepted devolution of power to respective provinces. This is betrayal of Zimbabweans as a whole by the Zanu PF administration under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which is showing dishonesty in its early stages. We as MDC Alliance condemn this amendment with the strongest words possible.
“We, as Zimbabweans, must reject attempts to make the Constitution the playground of a power-hungry party. We demand sanity … all should vote out Zanu PF in the 2018 plebiscite otherwise we will experience unprecedented dictatorship of the first class from the military coup government of President ED Mnangagwa. No to willy-nilly constitutional amendment,” said Sibanda.
Sibanda added that before the mooted amendments, government must hold a referendum on the issue.
Spokesperson for the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, Kurauone Chihwayi, said they were not going to watch while people’s rights were being violated through amending the Constitution on devolution of power.
“The amendment of chapter 14 means tempering or ditching of the people’s views. The people spoke and they will speak in the language understood by Parliament if they amend it. The MDC is closely monitoring developments in Zimbabwe. The people will not watch and doze as individuals alter or tamper with their views.
“As a major political player in Zimbabwe, we are already warming up for a showdown with the anti-people political institutions like Zanu PF,” said Chihwayi.
Should the governing party proceed to amend the Constitution, this will be the second time it has done so since the supreme law of the land was introduced in 2013.
The first amendment came by way of Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 1 of 2016, which has since gone through all the stages to become law.
It amended section 180 of the Constitution to give the president of Zimbabwe an unfettered discretion to appoint a chief justice, deputy chief justice and judge president of his/her choice whenever such vacancies arise.
It discarded the conducting of public interviews of prospective candidates for these positions.
At the time the amendments were done, observers were dismayed by the attitude of government towards the Constitution.
The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) decried at the time that the spectre of multiple amendments should not revisit the nation so soon after it overwhelmingly voted for a new Constitution which consigned the patched up Lancaster House Constitution to the dustbins of history.
“The Executive does not appear to share the same vision with the nation as seen by its determined effort to resuscitate the provisions of the old Constitution,” opined the LSZ at the time.