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ZIMBABWE: Govt to go ahead with key constitutional amendments
April 13, 2005

JOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe's ruling ZANU-PF party plans to use its two-thirds parliamentary majority to change the constitution and create a second chamber and the office of prime minister.

National political commissar Elliot Manyika told IRIN the party also intended to "tighten legislation relating to land and economic reform, with a view to giving statutory bodies more control over these crucial sectors and core national assets".

President Robert Mugabe indicated soon after the 31 March elections that he wanted to revisit aspects of the draft constitution of 2000. Among its recommendations was the creation of a senate made up of traditional leaders, retired politicians and other eminent Zimbabweans, as well as a new post of prime minister.

Despite intense lobbying by government, the draft constitution was rejected in a referendum in 2000, in a vote seen at the time as a sign of support for the new opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

Manyika said the House of Senate was necessary for strengthening constitutional democracy and widening the process of parliamentary decision-making, based on national consensus.

However, Daniel Molokela, a Zimbabwean analyst and human rights lawyer based in South Africa, said the proposed consitutional amendments were meant to entrench ZANU-PF's rule through the appointment of loyalists to crucial legislative bodies.

"The House of Senate should be composed of experienced politicians who are also experts in various disciplines: its purpose is to moderate and give a professional finish to legislation proposed by the lower house. In the case of Zimbabwe that is highly unlikely to happen, as most of the appointees would be political failures with none of the required expertise," alleged Molokela.

A political analyst at the University of Zimbabwe, John Makumbe, told IRIN that none of the proposed amendments would ease the economic and political crisis in the country. He said amending an already flawed constitution was a pointless exercise, and called for an entirely new constitution drafted with national consensus.

The National Constitutional Assembly, an NGO that has been campaigning for constitutional reform, criticised the current constitution, saying it gave the president too much power and allowed the ruling party to manipulate the election process.

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