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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • What is currently happening to Zimbabwe's new constitution
    Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
    April 08, 2013


    This bulletin explains, step by step, the current position and future steps with regard to Zimbabwe’s new Constitution. It is a sequel to our 27 March issue titled What will happen after the Referendum? This bulletin also comes in the wake of the current wrangling between Zanu PF and MDC political parties on whether the President is required to consult with the Prime Minister in fixing an election date. ZANU PF’s position is set out in an article which can be accessed here. Although we do not have the MDC’s official position, pro-MDC lawyers on social blogs are insisting that the President is required to consult with the Prime Minister, and in so asserting, are relying on article 20.1.1 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) which states that, ‘The Executive Authority of the Inclusive Government shall vest in, and be shared among the President, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, as provided for in this Constitution and legislation’. They are also relying on constitutional amendment number 19, which incorporated the GPA into Zimbabwe’s old constitution.

    What is happening to the constitution?

    We now turn to explain the current position regarding the new constitution and in doing so, exclusively rely on material supplied by our partner organisation Veritas Trust Zimbabwe, which we have edited to fit into our email template.

    The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Bill was gazetted in a Government Gazette Extraordinary dated 29th March. The gazetting followed the YES vote in the Referendum held on 16th March. The Referendum result was publicly announced by the Chief Elections Officer on 19th March at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission National Command Centre in Harare, and formally notified by the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs by General Notice 201A/2013.

    In accordance with section 52 of the current Constitution, a constitutional Bill has to be “published in the Gazette not less than thirty days” before its introduction in Parliament. The gazetting on 29th March means that the Bill can be introduced at any time from Tuesday 30th April onwards. Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Eric Matinenga will introduce the Bill as soon as Parliament resumes. The Bill will be introduced in the House of Assembly first, and once it is passed by that House will be transmitted to the Senate. In each House it must be approved by at least two-thirds of the total membership – the special majority required to pass a constitutional Bill.

    Parliament is scheduled to resume on Tuesday 7th May but technically it could be recalled on Tuesday 30th April. Once the Bill is passed, some pieces of legislation such as the Electoral Act must be amended to bring it into line with the new Constitution.

    A Constitutional Bill does not go to the Parliamentary Legal Committee for scrutiny as it is unnecessary to test a Bill for consistency with the present Constitution when its whole point is to change or repeal the current Constitution. So the Bill will not be subject to the mandatory delay between First and Second Readings that applies to other Bills. And, as the new Constitution is the product of a Parliamentary Select Committee [COPAC], and has been approved by the voters at the Referendum, there is no need for a report from the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal Affairs, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.

    Once passed by both Houses of Parliament, the Bill will go to the President for his assent, which will be indicated by his signature. Then it will be gazetted as an Act. In accordance with the Sixth Schedule to the new Constitution, some parts of the new Constitution will come into force immediately, on publication day – particularly those parts dealing with elections, so that the next elections will result in a the election of a new President, National Assembly and Senate, provincial and metropolitan councils and local authorities, as laid down in the new Constitution.

    Also coming into force immediately will be the Declaration of Rights and the provisions about the Constitutional Court. The corresponding parts of the present much-amended Lancaster House constitution will give way to these new provisions. The rest of the new Constitution will only come into force when the person elected as President in the coming elections is sworn in. At this point the present Constitution will fall away completely. In the interim or transitional period, the present Constitution will continue in partial force.

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