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Mwonzora could be digging his own grave

by Staff reporter
02 May 2021 at 08:36hrs | Views
Douglas Mwonzora's support for controversial amendments to the constitution is a mistake that could destroy his political career because the changes to the supreme law are not popular among the electorate, analysts have warned.

Mwonzora's MDC-T outfit voted with Zanu-PF in the Senate to pass Constitution Amendment Number 1 in March, which, once signed into law by President Emmerson Mnangagwa, will change the way senior judges are appointed.

The proposed changes will scrap public interviews for the chief justice, deputy chief justice and the judge president with the president making the appointments in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission.

MDC-T legislators also helped the ruling party pass Constitution Amendment Number 2 last month, which seeks to scrap the clause on running mates and push the retirement age for judges from 70 to 75.

Opposition parties and civic society leaders say they are against the amendments because they will create an "imperial president". Zimbabweans have advocated for the powers of a head of state to be curtailed.

The amendments are now before Senate where they are likely to be passed without any alterations.

At least 46 civil society organisations that are part of the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) last week said they were opposed to the amendments because they were undemocratic.

"The adoption of this Bill will undoubtedly centralise too much power in the executive, particularly the president," the groups said in a joint statement.

"Besides widening the scope of presidential powers and undermining democratic accountability, this Bill unilaterally increases the size of central government and imposes an unprecedented burden on the already suffering citizenry.

"Taxpayers will bear the primary burden of a bloated government.

"The proposed amendments on the promotion of judges to the superior courts and extension of tenure of office for judges over 70 years will greatly compromise the independence of the judiciary."

The groups added: "The proposed sections of the Amendment Bill are a backward step in the pursuit of democracy, accountability, the divisions of governmental power, representativeness, the rule of law and human rights in Zimbabwe.

"The adoption of the Bill entails further strengthening of the president's powers while weakening the mechanisms intended to hold the president to account for his or her actions, wrongdoing and in some cases, illegal conduct."

The groups vowed to hold legislators that supported the amendments accountable.

Eldred Masunungure, a University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer, said Mwonzora's actions were a betrayal of the majority of Zimbabweans, who voted overwhelmingly for the constitution in 2013 and could backfire for the opposition politician.

"It's very odd and sad for a party that claims to be the main opposition party in Zimbabwe to be supporting an obviously odious amendment to the supreme law of the country particularly because the MDC-T leader was one of the architects of that constitution during the constitution-making process," Masunungure said.

"The constitution received overwhelming approval during the referendum and this may be politically expedient in terms of crafting engagement with the ruling party for whatever benefit we don't know, but it is a perilous move from the perspective of the popular will and the electorate.

"It is taking a huge gamble, which is not likely to pay off positively during the forthcoming byelections and 2023 elections.

"It is taking a dangerous and retrogressive move.

"The whole thing affects the supremacy of our supreme law, which is our social contract that (Mwonzora) was a leader in crafting.

"It is a negative development and I think it will boomerang very badly on him in terms of electoral processes and outcomes."

Mwonzora, representing MDCT, co-chaired the Constitution Parliamentary Committee (Copac) alongside Paul Mangwana of Zanu-PF and the late Edward Mkhosi of MDC.

Alexander Rusero, a Hararebased political analyst, said Mwonzora had been exposed as a Zanu-PF project through his push for the constitutional amendments.

Rusero, however, warned that there were no permanent friends in politics and that meant that Zanu-PF could turn against the Manicaland senator at any time.

"Zanu-PF stops at nothing to conquer and if you look at these constitutional amendments, they are not even amendments, but are constitutional abrogation and a degeneration of Zimbabwe towards rule by law as opposed to rule of law," he said.

"Mwonzora, unfortunately, has proven all people, who doubted him including myself wrong.

"The Mwonzora shenanigans are a project and projects eventually come to an end, but there are certain undertakings and obligations in a project and it is unfortunate Mwonzora is doing that and he is on the wrong side of history.

"We must view it as a bigger Zanu-PF project that is prepared to sustain itself as long as the agenda that they want is achieved and portrays themselves as having the support of the opposition
in what they are doing."

Rusero said people should expect more surprises as Mwonzora would be working with Zanu-PF on the political scene.

South Africa-based political commentator Kefas Mtimande said Mwonzora's behaviour was that of a politician, who had made his mind to working with Zanu-PF.

"I think for him the die is cast and he knows he has no place in the opposition anymore and it is all over for him, hence he is seek ing political asylum in Zanu-PF," Mtimande said.

"He now cares less about what people will say and is just making it clearer through his rational disputation narrative, but otherwise he is no longer an opposition to Zanu-PF, but an ally. Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions president Peter Mutasa last week said those siding with Zanu-PF to mutilate the constitution were "sellouts" in apparent reference to Mwonzora and his MDC-T party.

The condemnation of Mwonzora and the MDC-T by Mutasa, observers said, was an indication of a vote-of-no-confidence in the political outfit that is battling to upstage the mainstream MDC Alliance as the main opposition party.

"The 2013 constitution came through a long process that includes consultation of the citizens so anyone, who has been appointed or elected by the citizens and who sits in the Senate or House of Assembly and does not realise the need for consultation before the constitution is amended, there is no other characterisation of that person, they are sell-outs," Mutasa said.

"So, we must be very clear as citizens that we are not going to side with those that are not siding with us.

"That has to be open. And I am sure you have seen some of them trying to come out after citizens raised voices."

Mwonzora's actions have also incensed the opposition party's traditional partners, who supported the need for a people-driven constitution including civic society, who last week collectively blasted the support by the opposition for the amendments.

Close to 50 organisations that gathered in Harare last week described the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2 as "controversial and a serious concern".

"It is very disturbing that the proposed amendments to the constitution are being introduced at a time when the May 2013 constitution has not been fully implemented," the civic society organisations said in a statement.

The organisations that took a stand against the constitutional amendments included Abammeli Rights Lawyers Network, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Chitungwiza and Manyame Rural Residents Association, Combined Harare Residents Association, Election Resource Centre, Heal Zimbabwe Trust, Media Institute of Southern Africa and Media Alliance of Zimbabwe.

The Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance, Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum and the Zimbabwe National Students Union also expressed disapproval.

Other critical thematic areas covered in the amendments include the appointment of the head of prosecution, extension of proportional representation provisions for female parliamentarians, composition of executive and legislative oversight role among other amendments.

MDC-T sources said the party MPs were in a dilemma on the move and that they were stampeded into supporting the amendments on the basis of strong calls for women empowerment.

Civic society organisations said they were mobilising for action to reject the amendments they say will centralise too much power in the executive, particularly the president.

Mwonzora has tried to justify his support for the amendments by saying they were protecting the quota for female legislators, but women's groups have rejected the provisions for affirmative action as useless.

Source - the standard