WARRING Zanu PF factions are reportedly heading for another showdown after it emerged that the party’s Parliamentary caucus is seeking an audience with President Robert Mugabe over the proposed constitutional amendments to facilitate appointment of the new Chief Justice.
Source: Zanu PF MPs demand Mugabe audience – NewsDay Zimbabwe December 28, 2016
BY RICHARD CHIDZA/PAIDAMOYO MUZULU
This comes as opposition political parties and civil society organisations (CSOs) have warned that Zanu PF will not have an easy run in public hearings and Parliament by trying to mutilate the Constitution barely four years after it was overwhelmingly adopted in a referendum.
Mugabe is currently vacationing in the Far East, but undercurrents of what could turn out to be an explosive fight over who eventually takes over from Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku continue unabated.
Impeccable sources told NewsDay that Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda was now at the centre of the storm after he reportedly authored a letter that stopped the Judicial Service Commission’s (JSC) selection process.
“Sibanda, through a letter, ordered the JSC to stop its process before triggering the current constitutional amendment that will allow the President to choose the next CJ [Chief Justice], in the process violating the provisions of the Constitution,” a member of the JSC said.
“However, it now seems Sibanda did this either against advice from his peers in the OPC (Office of the President and Cabinet) or without consulting the President because it has now caused great consternation with some openly distancing themselves from the order.”
Sibanda is reported to have flown out of the country to Dubai recently amid speculation he was off to consult Mugabe on the contentious matter.
As the jockeying continues, it has also been learnt that Zanu PF’s Parliamentary caucus has asked for an urgent meeting with Mugabe.
“The Zanu PF Parliamentary caucus has refused to take instructions from the usual channels and asked to be addressed by HE [His Excellency Mugabe],” another source said.
Zanu PF Chief Whip Lovemore Matuke was coy when contacted for comment yesterday.
“I do not want to comment much on the issue. Suffice to say, I take instructions from the party, but am currently on leave and will only be back on January 16. However, as we speak, there is no plan that I am aware of to meet over the proposed amendments,” Matuke said.
Yesterday, Higher Education minister Jonathan Moyo continued launching a broadside at Justice Ministry secretary Virginia Mabhiza through his Twitter account.
“It’s sinister opinion to claim that a lawful JSC process must be suspended pending vague constitutional amendment! VP [Emmerson] Mnangagwa has made it clear on the record that a lawful JSC process is separate from constitutional amendment!” Moyo claimed.
Moyo described Mabhiza’s argument that junior judicial officers could not interview their seniors as “disingenuous”.
“[It is] disingenuous. If the mischief is juniors interviewing seniors, amend the JSC Act to enable appointment of acting seniors!” the Zanu PF politburo member said.
Mabhiza was recently quoted as suggesting that the drafters of the new Constitution failed to realise the possibility of those mandated with handling the process turning into candidates.
Moyo, however, retorted: “There was no such failure at all. She either does not understand how a peer review mechanism works or is just pushing a political agenda!”
Mnangagwa — seen as the favourite to take over from Mugabe — is also in charge of Mabhiza’s Justice ministry.
The Vice-President could play an influential role on who becomes the next head of the country’s judiciary.
The Chief Justice is critical in the Zanu PF and national succession matrix with the mandate to swear in the incoming President or preside over possible judicial proceedings to determine which faction is legitimate in the event that Mugabe abruptly departs from the political scene without resolving the issue.
MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said his party would use all peaceful and democratic means at its disposal to block the enactment of the First Constitutional Amendment Bill.
“We know that the majority of Zanu PF MPs are strongly opposed to the amendment since it is essentially a factional agenda by one of the Zanu PF factions. We will mobilise and network with all MPs across the political divide to ensure that the public hearings come out strongly against the proposed amendment,” Gutu said.
“We have a strategic advantage in that in a secret ballot, the majority of Zanu PF MPs will reject that obnoxious and Stalinist constitutional amendment.”
People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Jacob Mafume said his party would engage in legal challenges to stop the amendment while simultaneously carrying out a vigorous public awareness campaign on the issue.
“We will look at ways to challenge it legally as we feel that the amendment is unnecessary and undermines the Constitution. We will also embark on an awareness campaigns using all forms of media to alert the people to the danger of piecemeal constitutional changes to suit [Zanu PF] factional battles,” Mafume said.
The CSOs said they would also embark on public awareness campaigns to make sure that many people attend the Parliamentary public hearings.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights senior officer Dzimbabwe Chimbga said: “CSOs may participate in the public hearings and question the timing and necessity of amendment, but they [Zanu PF] have two-thirds in Parliament so they can still push it through notwithstanding the views of CSOs at public hearings.”
Chimbga was also sceptical about Zanu PF MPs rebelling in a Parliamentary vote.
“It really depends on the extent of the so-called factional differences. What I do know is that if the President is on it, there is no chance. The President has always welcomed constitutional changes as this entrenches his power,” Chimbga said.