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Obert Mpofu says amendments meant to correct flaws in Zimbabwe's supreme law

by Staff reporter
30 Apr 2021 at 07:25hrs | Views
Zanu-PF secretary for administration Obert Mpofu says Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 is not about President Emmerson Mnangagwa's succession or sidelining his party and government lieutenants.

Speaking to the Daily News yesterday, Mpofu said the Bill - which seeks to introduce at least 27 amendments to the country's Constitution, including dropping the presidential election running mate clause - had no bearing on Mnangagwa's "close" relationship with Vice President Constantino Chiwenga.

This comes amid claims that Mnangagwa is behind the amendments, in an alleged bid to consolidate his power and sideline his perceived Zanu-PF opponents ahead of the 2023 elections.

"That (the alleged rift between Mnangagwa and Chiwenga) is always wishful thinking by our detractors. There has never been a rift between the two leaders.

"I am the secretary for administration of the party and I co-ordinate all party activities. What I have seen between the two is that they are like brothers. They work very closely together in a very co-ordinated manner.

"There is no way the president can influence a policy (the Bill) which has to be subjected to the democratic system. It has gone through Parliament, Senate and all consultations were done," Mpofu told the Daily News.

"Where does the president come into all this? There is no problem whatsoever. In Zanu-PF, we know our positions, limitations and our responsibilities.

"I know where I start and end, as well as the national chairperson and vice president. All of us are commanded by one centre of power, which is the president, His Excellency," he added.

Mpofu also said it defied logic that Mnangagwa would have appointed and continued to work with Chiwenga if there was bad blood between the two leaders.

"He (Mnangagwa) is the one who appoints us and how does he appoint us and suspect that we are begrudging him? It doesn't work that way," he said.

This comes after Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 was passed in the National Assembly last week and sent to the Senate for debate, which started yesterday.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi also told the Daily News recently that the on-going changes to the law were not meant to consolidate Mnangagwa's power, but to correct numerous flaws in the country's supreme law.

"The amendment has nothing to do with removing term limits for presidents. It simply removes the contested clause on running mates. It's not about power consolidation.

"It (the running mate clause) is a bad law not practised in many jurisdictions. It creates a parallel centre of power not consistent with the role of a vice president.

"The Constitution says a VP assists the president and anyone must be able to control their assistants.

"Coming to power, the same way would be akin to elevating the assistant to the same level as the principal," Ziyambi said.

He also told the National Assembly recently that those who were against the Bill were misguided.

"The (National Assembly) debates have largely been focused on very few issues and I must say that part of the debate was focused on why we are amending the Constitution and that we must leave it as it is and align the laws.

"I must say that … that argument is baseless in that the Constitution was a negotiated document and it has several flaws that we have noticed.

"On the provision pertaining to running mates, there was no consensus and the principals agreed to park this for 10 years … that perhaps we would have a new thinking.

"However, we do not have that new thinking. So, let us remove it because it was contentious," Ziyambi added.

This also comes as experts have said that the amendments will make sitting State presidents even more powerful - to the extent that incumbents will effectively be able to choose their successors.

Both legal and political experts who spoke to the Daily News last week also said the move to amend the Constitution was retrogressive.

University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, Clever Mumbengegwi, said the amendments were meant to bolster Mnangagwa's powers to deal with political dynamics in both Zanu-PF and the government - especially relating to succession politics.

"The removal of the running mate clause will make the president powerful and he can fire the vice president without following any procedure.

"It's a political calculation. We have seen the firing of the vice president before, but at the end it weakened the president which led to his downfall," he said.

The president of the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ), Wellington Magaya, also said the amendments were inspired by political reasons.

"All legislative amendments are made with political reasons behind them. That's the reality in the country.

"Our position as the LSZ is that, in as far as entrenching the rule of law and independence of the judiciary, there are no improvements that come with it.

"On the issue of vice presidents, it (the amendment) means that they will no longer be elected by the people.

"So, you are taking that power from the electorate and concentrating it in one person, that is the president.

"We believe that is not desirable. It's one of the main criticisms that we had under the old constitution. We are … going backwards … and this is unacceptable in a democratic society," Magaya said.

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