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you need to know about Amendment 19
December 17, 2008
The future of
Zimbabwe hangs on the thread of a power-sharing deal
that the opposition parties claim waters down their recent electoral
successes and the government interprets as an agreement that allows
the opposition - seen as fifth columnists for renewed colonisation
- to have a major stake in government and reverse the gains of its
differences, Zimbabwe stands at the last crossroads; the country's
future has never looked bleaker and the adoption of Amendment
19 never more important.
is Amendment 19 of the Zimbabwe Constitution?
Amendment 19 will bring
into law a power-sharing deal signed between President Robert Mugabe,
leader of the ZANU-PF party, Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), and Arthur Mutambara, an MDC
breakaway party, on 15 September 2008.
is it important?
There is no "Plan
B" for a political settlement in Zimbabwe and the country is
staring into the void of a failed state. The once prosperous southern
African country endures the highest inflation rate in history, estimated
at 89.7 sextillion percent, or 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 percent,
by the Cato Institute, a non-profit public policy research foundation
based in Washington, in the US.
The collapse of services
like health, sanitation and water has been the catalyst for a widespread
cholera outbreak that has claimed the lives of nearly 1,000 people
since August, with few signs of the disease abating.
About 5.1 million people,
or nearly half the population, require food aid, and little respite
is expected from the March 2009 harvest. Soldiers, one of the last
redoubts of Mugabe's 28-year rule, have rioted, and abductions of
political activists, allegedly by government security agents, continue.
The migration of citizens
to neighbouring states remains one-way traffic. More than 3 million
people, or a quarter of the population, are thought to have left
Zimbabwe in the last decade for neighbouring states like South Africa
and Botswana, or further afield for Britain, Australia and the US.
There is fear that Mugabe will declare a state of emergency in a
final showdown with the opposition and other political dissidents
before Amendment 19 is promulgated.
will the amendment be passed?
Amendment 19 was printed
in the government gazette on 13 December 2008. The soonest the amendment
could be on the statute books, should it have a smooth passage through
Zimbabwe's rough political waters, is mid-January 2009. Its adoption
requires a two-thirds majority in parliament.
are the major pitfalls?
The MDC are demanding
that a legal basis for the National Security Council (NSC) - which
will replace the Joint Operations Command (JOC), comprised of the
army, police and intelligence chiefs loyal to Mugabe - be nailed
down before the amendment is tabled in parliament. Such an agreement
will give the MDC a major stake in the NSC, enabling it to thwart
"unlawful" activities, whereas previously it played no
role in the JOC.
Other concerns that the
MDC has are the apportioning of ministerial portfolios between the
parties, which hit a wall over who controls Home Affairs, and through
it the police; the reappointment of provincial governors to reflect
the party holding the majority of MPs in each province; and the
return of all diplomats, and their replacement in terms of the power-sharing
will the 19 Amendment affect the balance of power?
The amendment not only
imposes checks and balances, but Mugabe will have to cooperate with
Tsvangirai in running the country. There is no love lost between
the two men.
Executive powers will
be divided between an office of the president, held by Mugabe, and
a newly created prime ministerial position, held by Tsvangirai.
The president will be
invested with such powers as declaring war, making peace, proclaiming
and terminating martial law, granting pardons, chairing the cabinet
and NSC, appointing independent constitutional commissions and,
in consultation with the prime minister, making key appointments
"under and in terms of the Constitution or any Act of Parliament".
The president will head
cabinet, which will be responsible for formulating policy. The prime
minister will chair the Council of Ministers, comprised of all ministers,
and responsible for implementation. He will be deputy chair of the
cabinet, a member of the NSC, and report regularly to both the president
The creation of a prime
minister's office is designed to establish both a counterbalance
to Mugabe's rule and give the MDC a major stake in government, although
it is feared this could easily lead to two centres of power and
even less cohesion.
nuts and bolts of the power-sharing deal
Mugabe will appoint two
vice-presidents, while Tsvangirai will appoint two deputy prime
ministers, one of which will be Mutambara, leader of the MDC breakaway
There will be 31 cabinet
ministers, 15 nominated by ZANU-PF, 13 appointed by Tsvangirai's
MDC and three by Mutambara's MDC. Each party may also appoint a
maximum of three ministers from outside parliament, who will have
the right to engage in parliamentary debates but will not be entitled
The parties will agree
on the equitable distribution of ministerial portfolios.
happens in by-elections?
For 12 months from the
promulgation of Amendment 19, and in consideration of election violence,
any vacancies arising in local government or parliament can only
be contested by the party that previously held the seat. In the
March 2008 elections, the opposition parties won 111 seats in the
210-seat parliament, while ZANU-PF took 99.
the deal engendered greater trust?
The straight answer is
'no'. The state-run daily newspaper, The Herald, continues to routinely
insult and attack the MDC as stooges of the West (US and Britain)
who are bent on re-colonising the country, and Mugabe's public speeches
maintain the same theme. MDC activists and civil society continue
to bear the brunt of state repression.
is the best-case scenario?
The amendment is adopted
in January 2009. A provision in it allows for a new constitution
to be drafted to replace the current constitution, and leads to
elections in two years, in an environment conducive to free and
is the worst-case scenario?
The amendment is not
adopted. The Zimbabwe failed state manifests itself in yet more
political violence, widespread disease and hunger, accelerated migration
and the destabilisation of the region.
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