NGO Forum rallies citizens to reject constitutional amendments

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum has launched an online petition to rally citizens to stand up and reject the 27 proposed constitutional amendments.

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.2) Bill gazetted on January 17, 2020 is made up of 27 sections that propose to amend not less than 30 sections of the national constitution.

The proposed amendments follow the first amendment to the 2013 Constitution which came into effect on September 07, 2017, which gave the President powers to unilaterally appoint the Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court.

In a petition to Parliament, which is being backed by thousands of signatures online, The Forum says that the government should not amend the constitution but rather focus of aligning some of the draconian laws to the constitution.

“The proposed amendments are of a fundamental and far-reaching nature interfering with the choice of the citizens who participated in a referendum which birthed the Constitution of 2013 and discarded the Lancaster House Constitution which came into operation on 18 April 1980.

“The Constitution as the supreme law of the land must not be unnecessarily amended. As an enduring piece of law, which reflects the basic values of the society of Zimbabwe as a whole, and enacted at great public expense, it is self-evident that the Constitution should be amended only when it is absolutely necessary to do so.

“Absent absolute necessity, the Constitution should not be changed with munificent abandon. Great care and consideration should be taken before any decision to amend it is taken. Consequently, the petitioners pray that you exercise your powers and turn down any proposals by the Government to amend the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” reads the petition.

Amongst other changes, the omnibus Bill proposes sweeping changes to allow the President to unilaterally appoint and remove the Vice President(s) outside a popular mandate;

It also gives the President more powers in the appointment and extension of tenure of judges of superior courts in a way that takes away transparency.

The Bill also proposes the extension of the women’s quarter system and creating additional 10 seats for the youths instead of the government fully implementing the equality clause in section 56 of the Constitution.

The Bill also cuts on parliamentary oversight over agreements entered into by the executive with foreign organizations and companies.

“The running theme in the proposed amendments is cutting back on checks and balances and separation of powers.

“Furthermore, some of the proposed amendments are interfering with provisions that have not been tested yet. The Forum calls for the implementation of the Constitution and not tinker with it,” reads the petition.

Zanu PF national secretary for legal affairs Paul Mangwana once remarked that they have sections in the constitution which they do not agree with and now that they have a two thirds parliamentary majority, they would use that to amend the constitution to consolidate their power.