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Amendment ploy to scuttle SADC initiatives on Zim crisis
MISA-Zimbabwe
July 17, 2007

The gazetting of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 18) Bill has been described as a ploy to undermine efforts by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis.

Soccer administrator-cum-civic society activist, Morrison Sifelani, said this at a meeting held at Gweru Press Club recently. The meeting was convened under MISA-Zimbabwe's press club debating sessions to discuss the role of civic society in the South African mediated talks currently underway between the opposition MDC and ruling Zanu PF and the implications of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.18) Bill.

Sifelani, who was introduced as representing civic society in the Midlands town, said civic society was supportive of the mediation process to resolve the Zimbabwean socio-economic and political crisis.

While Zimbabweans were capable of dealing with their own problems, Sifelani was, however, skeptical on their ability to striking lasting solutions to the crisis on their own without the involvement of a third party hence his support for the SADC Initiatives.

On the Constitutional Amendment (No) 18, he was of the view that this would not go the mile and urged Zimbabwean citizens to rally behind the mediation process as representative of the interests of the people.

Speaking at the same event, a representative of the MDC, Lyison Mlambo, stressed that the two MDC factions felt no obligation to include civic society in the mediation process. He said that decision would have to come from President Mbeki himself but that the opposition would not pressure him to accommodate civic society organisations.

He also drew participants' attention to an article in the Mail and Guardian of South Africa which quoted Zanu PF Secretary for Administration Didymus Mutasa saying that ZANU (PF) was only involved in the talks out of respect for SADC. Mlambo said this illustrated the lack of seriousness on Zanu PF's part.

Mlambo criticised provisions in the Bill which he said give the President power to appoint non-constituent Senators and Members of the House of Assembly.

"No one should aspire to be a lawmaker without subjecting themselves to the (will of) electorate" he said.

Background

The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 18) Bill, which seeks to harmonise Presidential and Parliamentary elections, was gazetted on 8 June 2007. The Bill recommends five changes to the current constitution, including the shortening of the term of office of the President to five years from six, so that it runs concurrently with that of parliamentarians.

The Bill also allows for expansion of the Houses of Senate and Assembly from 66 to 84 and 150 to 200 respectively. Presidential appointees, consequently, increase from 16 to 34. A Human Rights Commission, an idea which has been on the cards for almost a year now, will be established by the Bill. The Bill is still to be presented to Parliament.

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