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Parliamentary Roundup Bulletin No. 02 - 2013
Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust
February 07, 2013

Introduction

The House of Assembly unanimously adopted the Report on the Draft Constitution yesterday. Despite debating the Report extensively yesterday, the Senate deferred its adoption to today.

House of Assembly Plenary

Adoption of the Draft Constitution Report

The House of Assembly debated and unanimously passed a motion on the Report of the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) on the progress and outcome of the constitution-making process. The same motion also noted the draft Constitution that was tabled together with the Report.

The House of Assembly Speaker began the session by reminding Members of Parliament to confine their debate to the Report and to desist debating on the provisions of the Draft Constitution. Debate on the contents of the Draft Constitution will only be permitted during the Second Reading and Committee Stages of the Constitution Bill once it is introduced in Parliament after the Referendum.

Hon. Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T COPAC Co-Chair) noted that the Draft Constitution was a product of two processes: the outreach in which the people of Zimbabwe gave their views on what they wanted in the draft Constitution and negotiations by the representatives of political parties in the Inclusive Government.

Hon. Mwonzora indicated that the draft Constitution was divided into 18 Chapters and highlighted some of the provisions including:

i. The three tiers of government: the national tier, the provincial and metropolitan councils (whose jurisdiction is limited to socio-economic development and will be headed by elected provincial chairpersons. The councils will be subservient to central government) and local authorities,

ii. The recognition of all indigenous languages in Zimbabwe as official languages

iii. The requirement that the Constitution must be taught in schools (as part of the curricular), and as part of training for members of the security forces, the civil service and employees of public institutions (the role of CSOs in this regard is enshrined in section 23 of the draft Constitution),

iv. The specific mention of the rights of the elderly and disabled in the draft Constitution,

v. The protection of the traditional knowledge of local people,

vi. The categorisation of citizenship and the allowing of dual citizenship for citizens of Zimbabwe by birth,

vii. A comprehensive Bill of Rights that include civil and political rights as well as socio-economic rights: abrogation of rights can only be in terms of a law of general application,

viii. The expanded grounds of discrimination,

ix. The provisions on running mates, which shall apply after two general elections,

x. The limit to a president’s term in office,

xi. A “code of conduct” for Vice-Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers,

xii. The President’s power to declare war, which has been fettered by Parliament’s ability to rescind the declaration,

xiii. The splitting of the functions of the Attorney General’s Office (AG) into the National Prosecuting Authority (responsible for prosecution and shall be occupied by the person who held the office of the Attorney General before the effective date) and the AG’s Office (responsible for advising the Government),

xiv. Presiding of election for the Speaker and the Senate President by the Clerk of Parliament under the supervision of ZEC,

xv. The provision on the Speaker being the head of Parliament

xvi. Reference to the Constitutional Court of any disagreement between Parliament and Ministers over the constitutionality of legal instruments,

xvii. The Committee on the Standing Rules and Orders as a constitutional committee xviii. Limiting of the Clerk of Parliament’s term in office,

xix. Harmonized general elections are going to take place in the last month of a Presidential term unless called for earlier,

xx. The establishment of a Constitutional Court that shall be initially manned by the current Supreme Court justices sitting as a full bench,

xxi. The inclusion of the Bangalore principles on judicial independence,

xxii. The differentiation between public and civil servants

xxiii. Limiting the terms of security service chiefs,

xxiv. Independent institutions supporting democracy: the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Zimbabwe Peace and Reconciliation Commission (which shall operational for 10 years),

xxv. Institutions to combat crime: the Anti-Corruption Commission (with the power to direct the Police Commissioner General to investigate suspected corruption)and the National Prosecuting Authority,

xxvi. Limiting the jurisdiction of traditional chiefs to communal land (not all rural land) and over persons in communal lands,

xxvii. Security of tenure over agricultural land to allow agricultural land to be capable of being disposed of,

xxviii. A Land Commission that is an executive commission,

xxix. The regulation of procurement in general terms,

Hon. Paul Mangwana (ZANU PF COPAC Co-Chair) narrated the constitution-making process from the 12th of April 2009, when COPAC was set up to spearhead the writing of a new constitution, to the day the draft Constitution was formally adopted by COPAC as suitable for presentation to Parliament on the 31st of January 2013. He noted that in total, 4 943 meetings were held across Zimbabwe attended by 1 118 760 participants (416 272 males, 441 238 females, 253 240 youths and 8 020 special needs). The exercise cost USD $ 45.7 million (USD $24.7 from the Government and USD $21 from cooperating partners). Regrettably, he noted that the process took longer than anticipated because of:

i. delays in funding
ii. serious political polarisation, and
iii. negative media publicity

Hon. Mangwana noted that despite these challenges, COPAC was proud to table the Final Draft Constitution and its accompanying report. Apart from constitution making, Hon.Mangwana indicated that the process has by and large been a platform for national dialogue and has helped reduce tension amongst political opponents.

Hon. Mkhosi appealed to the media to correctly inform Zimbabweans on the draft Constitution and to avoid sensationalising falsehoods for the sake of selling papers.

Senate Plenary Business

Debate on the Draft Constitution Report

The debate on the Draft Constitution Report was done simultaneously in both Houses of parliament. However, the Senate did not conclude the debate yesterday and is set to adopt the Report today. While Senators across the political divide were unanimously agreed that the Draft Constitution was the best compromise the three major parties could come up with, there was a hint of a dissenting voice from the Chiefs. Although the debate yesterday was not on the substance of the provisions of the Draft Constitution, Chiefs indicated that they would propose amendments on the section dealing with land. Chiefs want sovereign authority over all the land in the country not just communal lands as provided for in the Draft Constitution.

Condolence Motion on Vice President John Nkomo

Senator Simon Khaya Moyo introduced a condolence motion on the passing on of Vice President John Landa Nkomo last month. Senator Moyo described the late Vice President as a “unifier and peacemaker”, an attribute which was shared by all the Senators that debated motion yesterday.

Today’s Major Business in Parliament

The Senate is expected to conclude its debate on the Draft Constitution Report. Adoption of the Report by the Senate today will pave the way for the holding of the Referendum. The President is expected to announce dates for the Referendum any time from now. However, information at hand indicates that COPAC will conduct an extensive public education exercise on the Draft Constitution before the holding of the referendum.

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