By Fungi Kwaramba
HARARE – President Robert Mugabe or any president can be prosecuted for any crimes committed during their term of office if the country adopts the Copac draft constitution, MDC secretary-general Tendai Biti said on Friday.
Speaking at a media briefing Biti, who is also Finance minister, described the draft constitution as a document which whittles the powers of the President as he will have to exercise his authority in consultation with Cabinet. He spoke on presidential immunity.
“The current constitution does not offer absolute immunity to the President. If he commits certain crimes then he can be prosecuted, however, this constitution makes it a wider provision. (However) this constitution does not apply in retrospect.
“That is why the two terms of office does not bar Mugabe from being the next candidate for Zanu PF.
“Suppose Zimbabwe re-elects Mugabe, it means he is now bound by the wider provisions in this (draft) constitution. When he leaves office he could be prosecuted for Gukurahundi and Murambatsvina,” said Biti while explaining his party interpretation of the new constitution to journalists.
Human rights groups such as the Catholic Commission for Peace and Justice (CCJP) accused the Mugabe regime of being responsible for Gukurahundi atrocities in which the North Korean-trained army, murdered 20 000 civilians in the Midlands and Matabeleland regions.
In 2005, Mugabe’s regime embarked on a clean-up campaign dubbed Operation Murambatsvina leaving close to a million people homeless according to United Nations statistics.
Apart from that, the Zanu PF government is also accused of orchestrating violence against Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his MDC supporters in the period leading to the June 2008 presidential run-off poll.
Section 5.11 (1) of the draft constitution on presidential immunity reads: “While in office, the President is not liable to civil or criminal proceedings in any court for things done or omitted to be done in his or her personal capacity.”
But section 5.11 (2) states: “Civil or criminal proceedings may be instituted against a former President for things done and omitted to be done before he or she became President or while he or she was President.”
Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora, who is a constitutional law expert, said the constitution does not target anyone as some people might want to suggest. “When we wrote the constitution we were not looking at Mugabe but we were writing a document for future generations,” said Mwonzora.
Political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya said holding presidents liable is necessary in order to curb abuse of the highest office.
“Such a provision is a proper constitutional deterrent measure to stop violations of laws by people elected into office. It should be celebrated because it reinforces the social contract between the people and the politicians, once the politicians break the contract then they should be prosecuted,” said Ruhanya.
However, University of Zimbabwe constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku said there is nothing unusual in the draft constitution on the prosecution of the president.
“There is nothing different between the draft constitution and the current constitution. I do not know why they (MDC) are misrepresenting the people,” said Madhuku.
Political scientist John Makumbe said when a president leaves offices he will be tried for crimes which he would have committed. “While the President cannot be touched when in office, the moment he leaves, he will be prosecuted for the things he did, this is delayed prosecution but it will take place,” said Makumbe.
With this constitution the country will be able to follow other world democracies such as France where former French president Nicolas Sarkozy is being probed for alleged crimes he committed while in office. Daily News