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‘Amendment of constitution premature’

Political analysts have reacted to the proposed amendments to the country’s Constitution, by the ruling party Zanu PF, which if implemented will lead to the scrapping of provisions on presidential running mates, extension of the women’s quota system among other factors.

The Cabinet on Monday approved constitutional amendments that will culminate in the scrapping of the concept of running mates in presidential elections and the extension of women’s quota system by another 10 years after 2023.

The proposed amendments will also create 10 parliamentary seats for the youths, among other issues.

In a post Cabinet briefing on Monday acting Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services, Amon Murwira, said the cocktail of amendments would also see Members of Parliament being excluded from sitting in the yet to be established Provincial Councils in light of their oversight role.

Murwira said some of the sections targeted for amendment, were making the implementation of the Supreme Law problematic.  

The provision on the presidential running mates, which gives powers to the seating President to nominate their successor, was expected to take effect in 2023 elections after 10 years of parking since the adoption of the new Constitution in 2013.

Political analyst, Khanyile Mlotshwa, said the need to empower women and young people through constitutional provisions was something commendable.

“I believe the women’s quota must be extended for a time as long as the life of Zimbabwe, and so is the youth provision,” said Mlotshwa.

“For every historical epoch, women and young people are the engine of politics and political change. It is important, and quite progressive, to have a constitution that recognises that by empowering them.”

But another political analyst, Fortune Mlalazi, said he was of the view that women and youth were empowered already.

“Over the years, I think we have achieved that (women empowerment through proportional representation),” said Mlalazi.

“For you to add to an already bloated number (of MPs), I think it is just absurd. It is just an unacceptable amendment. We need to scrap the women (quota); we need to scrap the youth (quota) and encourage political parties to include women and the youth as their election candidates.”

Both Mlotshwa and Mlalazi expressed skepticism on doing away with the running mates concept, which they described as rather premature.

“The scrapping of presidential running mates before the provision has been implemented seems quite suspicious,” said Mlotshwa.

“What is it that the ZANU-PF government fears about running mates? We know what happened in Malawi after Bingu Wa Mutharika died and his running mate and Vice President, Joyce Banda had to ascend to the presidency even against the wishes of the current president (Peter Mutharika) who wanted to usurp the throne.”

Mlotshwa argued the idea of running mates was necessary in entrenching democracy especially in the context of the confines of Zimbabwe’s neoliberal democracy, where the will of the people is expressed within the limits of elections.

“If you look at the issue of running mates, it is a modern trend of politics,” said Mlalazi.

“It also helps in terms of a transition or succession in leadership. Unfortunately, it is not in the culture of ZANU-PF to have a proper succession plan, hence we are in this mess.”

The two political analysts said the ruling party exhibited unfaithfulness in some of the proposed amendments considering the Charter was a negotiated document among political parties that constituted the coalition government which ended in 2013.

“These amendments tell us one thing and that is ZANU-PF always backtracks on agreements,” said Mlalazi.

“Remember this is a negotiated constitution where all got involved but now that they have the ultimate majority they (ZANU-PF) then now want to change, which is bad on their part.”

Mlotshwa also opined: “ZANU-PF as a party lacks discipline. This constitution is still young and some of its provisions are yet to be implemented and already it has to be amended. I believe it is too early, especially making amendments on provisions that have not yet been implemented around running mates and provincial councils.”

Kudzani Ndlovu, also political commentator, said the Constitution should not be tampered with to just suit the wishes of the powers-that-be arguing that creates a wrong precedence.

“The fundamental problem with chopping and changing the constitution whenever the political elite deem it necessary is that it creates a bad and wrong precedent,” he told CITE.

“It is even more problematic in instances where the constitution making process was centered on consultation and consensus.”

He was, however, quick to say the proposed amendments on youth and women representation were likely to attract support from all the parties.

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