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Storm brewing over Zimbabwe constitution

HARARE – A storm is brewing between opposition political parties and the ruling Zanu PF party over its proposal to unilaterally amend the constitution.

Minister without Finance: Patrick Chinamasa
Minister without Finance: Patrick Chinamasa

Last week finance Minister, Patrick Chinamasa, warned that Zimbabwe should brace for a massive overhaul of the US$100 million national charter, less than two years after it was signed into law.

Chinamasa said the bulk of the constitution will be shredded save for only the first four chapters addressing the country’s founding values and rights of citizens.

“The rest of the supreme law of Zimbabwe is up for amendment,” said Chinamasa adding “the government position is that the constitution, in its present form, gives room for a bloated government expenditure which cannot be sustained.”

Zimbabwe’s wage bill is currently pegged at 92%.

The amendments will also deal a big blow to a number of independent commissions, a move that is likely to be hotly contested as the commissions play a crucial role in any democracy.

Zanu PF also seeks to reduce the number of legislators which stands at 350 as well as doing away with provincial and metropolitan commissions among many others.

However MDC-T secretary general, Douglas Mwonzora, who was also co-chairperson of the constitutional parliamentary committee, (COPAC) said the party would resist any attempts to tinker with the national charter.

 “Around the world, this constitution is being touted as one of the best as it protects fundamental human rights and so any attempt to try and change it is tantamount to bringing back dictatorship. We will resist such moves legally and extra-legally,” Mwonzora said.

Another law expert and National Constitutional Assembly leader, Lovemore Madhuku, who vigorously campaigned against the constitution in the referendum said although their view is that it was a bad constitution, they would not allow Zanu PF to unilaterally tamper with it.

“Our view as NCA is that this is not a democratic constitution which is why we campaigned for a no vote. There are many provisions of the constitution that a very bad. However, we do not agree that it should just be Zanu PF of Chinamasa talking about it. Any process of amending it must be people driven,” he said.

Political commentator Charles Mangongera said the move by Zanu PF is not a surprise at all.

“I am not surprised. Zanu PF never wanted a new constitution because the old one was serving them well. This explains why they have not implemented the new constitution. If implemented the new constitution has great potential to democratise the Zimbabwean polity and ZANU PF is not happy with that,” he said.

The ruling party, Zanu PF, has the required two thirds of MPs needed to amend the national charter. The move comes at a time when government is grappling with over 300 laws that need to be urgently aligned with the new constitution.