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Mugabe's flexi Constitution
Godwin Gandu, Mail & Guardian
September 02, 2005

On Tuesday Zanu PF pushed through Parliament constitutional amendments designed to deny travel visas to government critics, remove legal recourse to protect property rights and reintroduce the Senate. The latest changes are the 17th time Zimbabwe has tampered with its Constitution since independence in 1980. The Lancaster House Constitution, crafted in 1979, stated that the Bill of Rights was not to be tampered with for 10 years.

The key changes are:

  • Abolition of seats reserved for whites in Parliament (Act 15 0f 1987) The Lancaster House Constitution provided that the white minority would have 20 guaranteed seats in Parliament for 5 years to have their economic and political interests represented.
  • Creation of the Executive Presidency (Act 23 of 1987) It did away with the ceremonial president and created an executive president. Robert Mugabe the then prime minister, became head of government with executive powers and privileges that included immunity from prosecution for offences committed during his term of office. 
  • Introduction of the unicameral Parliament (Act 31 of 1989) The two-chamber legislature of the Senate (Upper House) and Parliament (lower house) was dropped. The new Parliament allowed for 150 MPs, 20 appointed by the President, and 10 seats were reserved for chiefs. 
  • Introduction of the Office of Attorney General (Act 4 of 1993) The attorney general assumed the role as chief legal adviser and sat in on cabinet meetings.
  • Creation of second vice-president (Act 15 of 1990) In 1987 Zanu-PF and PF-Zapu signed a unity accord. The second vice president was created to accommodate Joshua Nkomo, the then leader of PF-Zapu. The amendment was designed to unite the two major ethnic groups (Shona and Ndebele) and ensure equal representation in the presidium.
  • Bestowal of powers to compulsorily acquire land without the obligation to compensate (Act No. 2000) This provision was further amended by the changes that were pushed through Parliament this week denying legal recourse to aggrieved farm owners.

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