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Parly changes dismissed
Ncube, The Financial Gazette (Zimbabwe)
September 02, 2004
A BICAMERAL Parliament with 260-members, among other
far-reaching changes to Zimbabwe's august House, has been mooted,
but analysts say the two-chamber legislature will be "toothless"
unless it assumes "real" power.
A bicameral parliamentary
system provides for two chambers and observers say this prevents
enactment of ill-considered laws by providing checks and balances.
Of particular interest to gender activists in Zimbabwe is the proposed
setting aside of 50 special seats for women to be brought to Parliament
through proportional representation.
Analysts and political commentators who spoke to The Financial Gazette
were unanimous that the proposed overhaul of Zimbabwe's Parliament,
though necessary for good governance in a democracy, was not a priority
at present as long as the legislature had little authority compared
to other arms of government. The other arms of government are the
Executive and the Judiciary.
The analysts said constitutional reform, which among other things
should see the curtailment of the powers of the Executive, was more
paramount in Zimbabwe today than the establishment of a bicameral
Presently, the Parliament of Zimbabwe has 150 legislators comprising
120 elected and 30 non-constituency members.
ZANU PF has submitted to the Executive a proposal to expand Parliament
by creating a two-chamber house consisting of 260 members.
According to a draft proposal shown to The Financial Gazette, the
ruling party proposes 150 elected legislators, 50 special seats
for women and a 60-member Senate.
Of the proposed 60 senators, 40 would be brought to the House through
proportional representation per province, same as the proposed 50
special seats for women.
The President of Zimbabwe, under the scheme currently under discussion
within both ZANU PF and the main opposition circles, would have
the prerogative to appoint 10 governors and 10 traditional chiefs,
bringing the total number in the Senate to 60.
Janna Ncube, the director for Women In Politics Support Unit, said
a bicameral Parliament would politically empower Zimbabwean women.
Of the 150 elected and non-constituency Members of Parliament in
the present House, only 16 are female.
"We have been advocating for real women representation at that level
of decision-making. It will give us a token 25 percent of the 200
elected members. Our target for the 2005 parliamentary polls is
"We believe there should be other seats for women, maybe in the
proposed Senate. Our researches have shown that women are missing
out in Parliament because mostly men use money and other unscrupulous
methods to get themselves elected as candidates to represent their
parties in polls," said Ncube.
She said setting aside 50 seats for women through legislation would
encourage their participation in Zimbabwean politics, especially
considering that females constituted about 52 percent of the country's
"A bicameral House is meant to be a safeguard in a democracy so
that the legislature does not steamroll laws like what happened
with the fast-track land reform," said Brian Kagoro, a lawyer by
profession, who doubles up as chairman of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition.
"It (bicameral Parliament) is an important device for checks and
balances. It, however, depends on how the two Houses are structured
and what power they enjoy and wield. If the two Houses are poorly
structured and filled with people to rubber-stamp laws, then there
will be no magic in a bicameral system," said Kagoro, whose pressure
group consists of more than 350 civic organisations operating in
Kagoro said while a bicameral system was an important safeguard
in other democracies, it was not a priority in present-day Zimbabwe.
"The priority at the moment is not a bicameral Parliament but to
deal with the Presidential Powers Act. This has to be overhauled.
"There is need to restructure the relationship between Parliament
and the Executive. Parliament needs to hold the Executive accountable.
This is not what is happening in Zimbabwe. "We also need to spruce
up the Bill of Rights," said Kagoro.
Opposition Movement for Democratic Change legal secretary David
Coltart said a bicameral system would not work wonders in Zimbabwe
if parliamentarians remained powerless compared to other arms of
government, especially the Executive.
"Parliament in Zimbabwe is weak. There is need for comprehensive
constitutional amendments rather than these piecemeal reforms ZANU
PF is proposing such as a bicameral system.
"The powers of the Executive need to be spread to other arms of
government, especially to the legislators who, to all intents and
purposes, are elected by the people. We have to make the Judiciary
more independent than is happening now," said Coltart.
While women gender activists welcomed the setting aside of 50 special
seats under the proposed parliamentary changes, they however warned
ZANU PF not to use it to woo women into joining their ranks.
"We deserve better if not equal representation in any type of Parliament
in Zimbabwe by our virtue of being 52 percent of the population,"
said another female activist.
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