Constitutional Bill reaches voting stage

Source: Constitutional Bill reaches voting stage | The Herald

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The National Assembly is expected to vote on the Constitutional Amendment (Number One) Bill tomorrow after debate was concluded yesterday, paving way for polling in terms of the Constitution in respect of constitutional Bills.

Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who also oversees the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, told legislators that tomorrow would be voting day for the Bill in line with the Constitutional provision, which requires that there be at least two thirds legislators supporting the Bill.

“On Thursday, we will quickly go through the Bill and dispose it,” he said. “The question in relation to the Constitutional Amendment Bill, the debate is over, what is left is voting.”

The Bill, which is a first amendment of the new Constitution adopted in 2013, seeks to confer the President powers to appoint the Chief Justice, the deputy and the High Court Judge President. It also seeks to subordinate the Labour Court to the High Court, which are currently at par. The Bill is expected to sail through with ease, given that Zanu-PF commands two-third majority both in the National Assembly and Senate.

Once it sails through the National Assembly, the Bill will be transmitted to Senate before being sent to the President for his assent. Debate on the Bill yesterday was heated. Mutare Central MP Mr Innocent Gonese, who is also MDC-T Chief Whip, protested the decision by VP Mnangagwa to defer voting to tomorrow.

He wanted the proposal to have the voting process tomorrow to be subjected to debate by the House. “If he (VP Mnangagwa) makes that proposal, it should be considered as a motion,” said Mr Gonese. “There are three options either to vote today, or tomorrow which is still a sitting day. We need to debate the propriety of deferring it to Thursday, I know he is charge of the Bill.”

Acting Speaker of the National Assembly, Ms Melody Dziva, said what VP Mnangagwa had done was within the provision of Parliament’s Standing Orders.

“According to rules of Parliament, not more than one stage of a Bill can be done in one day without the leave of the House,” she said. “So, the Honourable Vice President is right. The sponsor of the Bill can also decide when he intends to continue with the Bill and I agree with the VP.”

Mr Gonese sought for the division of the House during debate on Clause Six of the Bill during the committee stage. This was after presiding officer of the committee stage, Cde Reuben Marumahoko, ruled that those who had given a nod to the Clause through affirmative vote outnumbered those that were against it. He said Standing Orders allowed him to disregard a call to divide the House if he felt doing so was unnecessary and an abuse of the process. During debate, VP Mnangagwa said in terms of the Constitution, the President was Head of State in addition of being the Head of the Executive.

“The State is constituted by three pillars, the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary,” he said. “The President is the Head of State when these three pillars are put together.”

VP Mnangagwa was responding to Mr Gonese who said the three pillars of the State were equal and the President, who is Head of the Executive could not appoint the head of the Judiciary, as that amounted to violation of separation of powers doctrine provided for by the Constitution.

Meanwhile, the National Peace and Reconciliation Bill failed to kick off at committee stage after Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko said he wanted to “digest” proposed amendments by Mr Gonese.