Cabinet’s failure to meet due to President’s absence violates Constitution

When I heard a radio news report to the effect that the civil servants' bonus issue could not be dealt with immediately, because Cabinet could not meet since the president was on leave, my stomach feel out.

President Robert Mugabe

President Robert Mugabe

How can a government come a standstill just because the President is not present?

Surely, does it mean that this country is run by one man?

If so, then this country is in bigger trouble than I ever imagined.

There is a Shona adage, ‘kamba haivhari nekufa kwemujoni’, which loosely means that an establishment’s operations should not halt just because the superintendent is not present.

However, what we see in Zimbabwe is worrisomely so much the opposite.

I will not bother to delve into the politics of it all, as to the possible reasons why Cabinet would not meet without the President in attendance, but I am more concerned about the clear violation of the Constitution and the subsequent effects of a dysfunctional government.

Section 105(2), clearly states that, ‘ Cabinet meetings are presided over by the President or, in his or her absence, by a Vice-President or, in their absence, by a Minister referred to in section 100(1)(c)’.

Are we to believe that this country at the moment has no Vice President, and does not have a single Minister that could be nominated by Cabinet, in terms of section 100(1)(c)(ii), to chair a Cabinet meeting, especially when there are such important issues to discuss?

This is not just a matter of civil servants’ bonuses, there are so many other critical matters that need to be addressed, as the country is clearly burning, whilst the powers-that-be are watching with folded arms.

With the way in which the situation in Zimbabwe is in a free-fall, what issues would our government consider serious enough to call for a Cabinet meeting in accordance with the various provisions of the constitution?

If the fact that multitudes of Zimbabweans are starving is not a
serious enough an issue, then this government has no business being in
office – if ever they even go to their offices at all!

In other countries, leaders even cancel their holidays or even important state visits, just so that they can attend to a disco fire that would have claimed people’s lives.

Actually, a Prime Minister resigned due his government’s inability to prevent deaths due to a disco fire at a nightclub – a gesture alien to our own leaders.

In Zimbabwe, our government would not care less, even if there are workers who are being retrenched daily, most if them without receiving any terminal benefits.

They would never lose sleep just because there are families out there who have not had anything to eat for days, and are on the brink of starvation, due to the drought and others because they have not been paid their salaries for months – if not years.

The government would never consider the ever rising number of the
unemployed due to perennial company closures, lack of jobs, and
retrenchments, as an emergency.

Does Cabinet know how many pupils managed to return to school this year and how many dropped out, and why?

As it is the beginning of a new year, has the Cabinet taken stock of how many companies have resumed operations after the Christmas break, and how many permanently closed shop?

Is that why most Cabinet ministers can not even answer impromptu questions pertaining to the state of affairs in Zimbabwe, because they have no idea what is happening?

As such, is it wise for Zimbabweans to continue entrusting the welfare of the country, and indeed our own welfare, in the hands of such uncompassionate, unprofessional and unconcerned people?

Does Cabinet not see it fit to meet at the earliest to ensure that whatever plans where made for 2016 get off to a perfect start, so that they are not taken by surprise when they later realise that things are not going the way they had planned – a stitch in time saves nine?

The Constitution had been very well-written in making provisions in the event of the President being absent, but whatever politics is at play, there is no excuse whatsoever to lay comatose whilst the country continues to spiral into an abyss.

Would they have had a different attitude had the situation personally affected the top echelons of our country?

I do not believe they would have been so indifferent had, for instance, fresh targeted sanctions been imposed on members of the Zimbabwean ruling elite – being banned from visiting Western capitals, and their overseas assets being re-frozen.

I am sure an emergency Cabinet meeting would have been convened in a matter of hours.

In all this, the most troubling issue is the fact that a minister can say that Cabinet can not meet as the President is on holiday.

Such flagrant violation of the Constitution is unacceptable in a country that describes itself as a democratic republic.

If the government gets away with violating the Constitution willy-nilly, without being held to account, then we are headed for disaster.

As the Constitution is the supreme law of Zimbabwe, its violation leaves both the country and its  people vulnerable to further abuse and oppression with unfettered disregard for the law.

Zimbabweans rely on the Constitution for the defence of their rights, and the upliftment of their welfare.

So when the very people who are supposed to ensure the Constitution’s protection violate it, that becomes a very serious concern to all law-abiding citizens.

When taking the oath of office, the President and his Cabinet swore to ‘uphold, defend, obey and respect’ the Constitution as the supreme law of the nation.

Therefore, it is expected of the Cabinet not only to ensure that the Constitution and all the other laws are faithfully observed, but also that they take seriously the well-being of all the people of Zimbabwe, and even consider all those children who could not attend school this year as an issue requiring urgent attention at the highest level.

° Tendai Ruben Mbofana is a community activist, communications specialist, journalist, and writer. He writes in his personal capacity. He welcomes and appreciates any feedback. Please call/WhatsApp: +263782283975, or email: [email protected]com

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