Back to Index
crafted to extend Mugabe tenure - ZESN
Orirando Manwere, Zimbabwe Independent (Harare)
June 22, 2007
of Zimbabwe Amendment (No18) Bill has been crafted to ensure
President Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party stay in power
until 2010 and also gives him and a partisan parliament exclusive
powers to manipulate the electoral system and decide on critical
national issues without involving the majority, an electoral monitoring
body has said.
analysis produced this week by the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (Zesn)'s lawyers says clause 2(2) of
the Bill allows Mugabe to remain in office until parliament is dissolved
The clause states that
"the amendments made by sub-section (1) apply to the president
in office on the date of commencement of this Act, notwithstanding
anything contained in Section 29 before its amendment by this Act".
However, according to
Zesn, the amendments made by subsection (1) of clause 28 provide
that an election to the office of president must take place at the
same time as a general election of members of parliament.
"So the effect of
(2) is that President Mugabe (who will be the president in office
when the Bill comes into force as an Act) need not subject himself
to re-election until the next general election is held in 2010.
"This applies notwith-standing
the current Section 29 of the Constitution, which states that the
presidential term is limited to six years. His term, in other words,
is extended to the next general election. So President Mugabe will
not have to face the voters until 2010, unless he chooses to dissolve
parliament before then in 2008.
"The true import
of clause 2(2) needs to be clearly understood," reads the Zesn
On the proposals to allow
parliament to elect a new president in the event of the incumbent's
death, resignation or removal, Zesn says this was undemocratic because
an executive president must be elected by a popular vote.
According to the new
section 28 (3) (b), if the president dies, resigns or is removed
from office, the Senate and the House of Assembly must sit together
within 90 days and elect a new president. A president so elected
will hold office for the life of the current parliament
"The Bill does not
specify any particular majority by which a new president must be
elected, so one must assume that a simple majority of the Senators
and MPs present and voting will suffice.
"This change has
been foreshadowed by discussions in the press. It is widely believed
that President Mugabe wants to contest the next presidential election
and then, if he wins, steps down in favour of a chosen successor
who will be duly elected by a grateful party using its majority
"This proposed change
is undemo-cratic, because if it is accepted that an executive president
must be elected by popular vote, which the Constitution does in
Section 28(2), then his or her successor should be similarly elected,"
Zesn says the fact that
elections are expensive cannot justify a provision that would allow
an executive president to hold office without a popular mandate.
It says the only exception
might be if the president died or resigned shortly before his or
her term of office was due to expire within six months. In that
event a successor could be chosen by parliament, but even then it
would be better to allow one of the vice-presidents to act until
the next presidential election.
On the proposed expansion
of parliament Zesn says the increase is undesirable.
"Parliament is an
expensive institution, and increasing its membership will increase
the expense. The only discernible reason for the increase is to
extend the government's power of patronage. This is unjustifiable,
particularly in the current economic environment.
"Ten members of
the Senate will be provincial governors, 18 will be chiefs and six
will be appointed by the president. Since the president appoints
provincial governors and chiefs, he will have 34 appointees in the
Senate; at present he has only 16.
"Under the Bill,
the House will have 210 members of whom 200 will be elected on a
constituency basis and 10 will be appointed by the president.
"So far as presidential
appointees are concerned, what the House of Assembly has lost the
Senate will gain. The total number of presidential appointees in
parliament will be reduced from 46 to 44.
Zesn argues that both
Houses of Parliament, except for the Chiefs, must be elected.
It says chiefs should
be outside politics and can remain as an advisory council such as
the case in Lesotho and other countries to ensure that they are
non-partisan and embrace all citizens without favour or bias due
to political affiliation.
On the Delimitation Commission
and its functions, Zesn says the proposed commission is partisan
as it is appointed by and reports to the president. It says an independent
electoral body should play that role.
Clause 10 of the Bill
will replace Section 60 of the Constitution. According to the Bill's
memorandum, the replacement is "consequential to the provision
for the increase in the number of elected House of Assembly seats
to make the delimitation commission responsible for determining
the boundaries of the senatorial constituencies."
Zesn notes that the memorandum
is not entirely frank as it makes at least one amendment, which
is unrelated to the increase in the number of seats.
Under the present Section
60(4) the commission may allow the number of voters in each constituency
to vary by up to 20%. Under the Bill the permissible variation is
increased to 25% which is a significant increase.
Zesn also notes is that
while the delimitation commission must take into account such factors
as community of interest between voters, physical features and so
on when fixing the boundaries of House of Assembly constituencies,
it will be allowed to disregard all such factors when delimiting
senatorial constituencies according to the new Section 60(5) of
The president, who needs
merely to consult the Chief Justice or the chairman before appointing
them, appoints all the members of the commission. With such a potentially
biased commission, any relaxation of rules regarding delimitation
must be viewed with suspicion, says Zesn.
The increased number
of seats in the House of Assembly will necessitate the creation
of 80 new constituencies. The delimitation commission will also
delimit five senatorial constituencies in each province consisting
of groups of contiguous house of assembly constituencies.
"Before the 2005
parliamentary elections, a number of constituency boundaries were
redrawn to give the ruling party an electoral advantage," said
Zesn. "Certain constituencies dominated by Zanu PF like Gokwe
were split to create individual constituencies without any justification
of demographic changes.
"On the other hand,
some urban constituencies, which are the stronghold of the MDC,
were redrawn to incorporate abutting rural areas where Zanu PF had
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.