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Zimbabwe gazettes 18th constitutional amendment
June 12, 2007

Zimbabwe plans to amend the country's Lancaster House Constitution for the 18th time since 1980 following the gazetting of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 18) Bill on 8 June 2007.

The Bill recommends five changes to the current constitution. Firstly, it proposes to shorten the term of office of the President to five years so that it runs concurrently with that of parliamentarians. Currently the presidential term is six years and the next presidential election is due in 2008 while parliamentary elections were due in 2010. The President can simply dissolve Parliament so there will be no need for any legislative amendment to the current Parliament.

The Bill proposes to change the composition of both the Houses of Senate and Assembly. Currently the Senate is composed of 66 Senators. It is proposed to increase the number of seats in the Senate to 84. Under the existing set-up, 50 Senators are directly elected and 16 appointed by the President. In the proposed Bill, the President will now appoint 34 Senators while the voters will still elect 50.

While the current House of Assembly comprises 150 members of whom 30 are Presidential appointees, in the Bill, it is proposed to increase the number of seats to 210 with voters electing 200 and the President appointing 10.

The Bill proposes to change the title of the police chief from "Commissioner of Police" to "Commissioner General of Police". Another proposed name change is that of "Ombudsman" to "Public Protector".

The creation of the post of Deputy Chief Justice who will act as the Chief Justice whenever the office of Chief Justice falls vacant or the Chief Justice is for any reason unable to perform the functions of his or her office is also proposed under the Bill.

The Bill proposes to establish a Human Rights Commission, an idea which has been on the cards for almost a year now.

The Bill will be presented in Parliament any time from 8 July 2007.

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