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Constitutional Amendment Bill hearings begin

by Staff reporter
17 Jun 2020 at 06:35hrs | Views
People in Lupane in Matabeleland North and Mt Darwin in Mashonaland Central who attended the public hearings on the Constitutional Amendment Bill gave a range of views from enthusiastic support or even wider change to those who felt it was too early to amend the Constitution.

There were those who wanted new delimitations of constituencies so population changes were taken into account and all constituencies made more equal in size. The Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2019 was gazetted in January.

Its main provisions are to retain as a permanent measure the interim arrangement of the President choosing Vice Presidents rather than the three running on a single ticket.

It also seeks to retain for another 10 years to 2033, the provision for 60 extra National Assembly seats reserved for women and elected by proportional representation to increase from five to seven the number of Cabinet ministers appointed from outside Parliament to bring in more technocrats.

The amendment also want the Judicial Service Commission to recommend to the President for the appointment of judges of higher courts without the need for a second round of public hearings before the promotion from the High Court to Supreme Court or the Supreme Court to the Constitutional Court.

The Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Portfolio Committee is on a countrywide tour soliciting for citizens' views about the proposals in line with provisions of the constitution.

The Portfolio Committee split into four groups, with the one chaired by Gokwe-Gumunyu Member of House Assembly Stephen Ngwenya (Zanu-PF) covering Matabeleland North, Bulawayo and Matabeleland South.

Speaking during a consultative meeting held at Lupane Community Hall in Matabeleland North on Monday, some members of the public drawn largely from the civic society said it was "premature to amend a Constitution that has not been fully implemented."

Some were for scrapping of the running mates provision, as the Bill seeks, while others said the President should have powers to appoint even the judges. But some participants said judges should be interviewed and not appointed by the President for the Judiciary to remain independent. There were mixed feelings on election of Members of Parliament or local Government, especially through proportional representation and the quota system.

Lupane Local Board chairperson Mrs Monica Ngwenya wanted the Bill to go further on the reserved women's seats and cascade this concept down to local government level.

"The inclusion of women in political positions through the women's quota system should be cascaded to council level so that we have more women taking up positions," she said.

Another participant said: "Instead of reserving seats for women or youths, the political situation should be conducive for them to compete equally with others. Reserving seats opens up room for secondment of people with no capabilities into leadership positions."

Another participant said political parties should nominate people with expertise in sectors of the economy when choosing candidates to avoid appointment of non-elected individuals as ministers after the election.

"Ministers should be people who are elected as MPs. Political parties should nominate people with capacity so that we don't have a situation where experts are appointed as non-elected MPs because that suggests that we would have elected people with no capacity to become ministers and it's expensive for the country to pay allowances for both the MP and a minister," said another participant.

In an interview, Ngwenya said the committee was happy with attendance.

"These are public hearings where we are reaching out to people to get their views about the Constitutional Amendment Number Bill of 2019. We are happy with the turnout and we had to make four sessions in Lupane as we observed health guidelines for Covid-19. We have noted that some people are for the Bill while others are against the amendment. We have some who are focusing on specific amendments," said Ngwenya.

"For example, youths want seats reserved for them increased saying they are the majority as they make up about 60 percent of the electorate. As for the running mate, some are saying they should be voted, while others are saying they should be appointed."

In Mt Darwin Priscilla Misihairambwi's group was forced to conduct three hearing sessions on Monday due to huge attendance by residents.

Mr Maxwell Jiri said the Constitution was only seven-years-old and there was no need to make changes.

"We should give it time. It is wrong to put patches on a new garment, yet some of the provisions in the initial draft are yet to be implemented," he said.

"The proposals are not welcome. Vice Presidents should be chosen through elections as constitutionally stated, likewise the same should be done for judges they should undergo interviews, this shouldn't be left up to one person."

Others saw the need for amendments though with reservations on issues such as delimitation of boundaries and equal representation. Mr Kenias Chigombe said the President has to appoint his own deputies.

Source - the herald