The National Assembly on Tuesday 25 July, 2017 passed the Bill in Parliament by a vote of 182 for, and 41 against, which amends section 180 of the Constitution and gives sole and unfettered discretion to the President of Zimbabwe to appoint the country’s Chief Justice, Deputy Chief Justice and Judge President of the High Court of his choice whenever there are vacancies for such posts.
We contend that the Parliament of Zimbabwe has abrogated its duty to protect the Constitution in particular Constitutional supremacy, separation of powers, independence of the judiciary and respect the views and aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.
It is disheartening that Parliament has failed to protect and defend the Constitution and promote democratic governance as provided for in section 119 of the Constitution, which outlines the role of Parliament and provides that “Parliament has power to ensure that the provisions of this Constitution are upheld and that the State and all institutions and agencies of government at every level act constitutionally and in the national interest.”
The Bill is meant to compromise the independence of the judiciary. The amendment also undermines all the current efforts to promote constitutionalism in Zimbabwe.
As CSOs, we are of the view that this move seeks to introduce excessive executive powers to the presidency and defeats the gains secured through the enactment of the Constitution on the principle of separation of powers.
Historical experiences on constitutional amendments have shown how this can be used to undermine the doctrine of separation of powers. We are particularly concerned that Parliament has tempered with the Constitution in a way that limits rather than strengthen fundamental rights and freedoms, protections and principles of separation of powers that it seeks to guarantee.
This shameless action signifies the rebirth of the legacy of the Lancaster House Constitution amended 20 times and once allowed will open a floodgate of many amendments to the Constitution by the Government of Zimbabwe.
We have evidence and reason to believe that the Bill is one of the clauses that were rejected during the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC)-led constitution making process in 2012 regarding executive appointments.
In the face of impending elections in 2018, the amendment strengthens the establishment of competitive authoritarianism and marks an end to the principle of separation of powers, as the judicial arm becomes subjected to presidential control reminiscent of the Lancaster House Constitution.
As CSOs, we extensively consulted and monitored the public hearings on the Bill across the country early this year, where the Bill was overwhelmingly rejected by citizens. The members of the House of Assembly have impulsively used the majority in Parliament to subvert the will of the people as expressed in 2013.
In this regard, united by our desire to realise full constitutionalism in Zimbabwe and the return of the Rule of law:
- We reiterate that the changes to the Supreme law have serious social, economic and political consequences. It compromises the Judiciary and undermines its ability to safeguard and uphold the law, driving away potential investors as well as confirming the perception of a Government unwilling to reform. This attitude will continue to fuel social unrest and fierce confrontation by the public.
- We implore and would want to remind the Parliament of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe that they have an obligation and duty to uphold, defend and respect the Constitution and ensure that the Constitution is observed. Instead of reversing the gains, the Government should be promoting democracy, governance and human rights as way of the addressing the social, economic and political challenges the country is facing.
- We recommend that the Government of Zimbabwe uphold and respect the Zimbabweans who voted for the Constitution by also respecting the views of the people who rejected the Bill during public hearings,
- In pursuance of our rights and obligations to the Constitution as citizens we urge the people of Zimbabwe to take action and speak publicly without fear or reservations on this unconstitutional move to amend the legal document which they heavily invested in as well as waited for, for more than three decades to have. This Constitution should be safeguarded as it represents a milestone in our democratic order.
- We reiterate our position that we are prepared to defend the Constitution of Zimbabwe and its democratic tenets without fear or favor and will mobilise citizens and other non-state actors to act against attempts at reverting Zimbabwe to the days of the Lancaster House Constitution.
- We call upon Parliament to effectively exercise its role of providing checks and balances on the Executive and for Parliamentarians not to focus on voting along party lines but be guided by the interests of their constituencies and principles of rule of law and good governance.
- Parliament must speedily ensure the harmonisation of all subsidiary legislation with the provisions contained in the Constitution in accordance with human rights norms and standards that Zimbabwe has voluntarily accepted at the United Nations and African Union levels.
- Achieve Your Goal Trust (AYGT)
- Artists for Democracy Trust (ADZT)
- A Self-help Assistance Program (ASAP)
- Build a Better Youth Zimbabwe (BABY)
- Bulawayo Vendors and Traders Association
- Christian Action Trust Zimbabwe (CAT-ZIM)
- Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ)
- Centre for Research & Development in Zimbabwe (CRD)
- Chitungwiza Residents Trust
- Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA)
- . Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD)
- Counselling Services Unit
- Chinhoyi Residents Trust
- Democratic Councils Forum
- Doors Of Hope
- Ecumenical Support Services (ESS)
- Election Resource Centre
- Federation of African Women Media in Zimbabwe (FMWZ)
- Female Students Network
- Female Prisoner Support Trust (FEMPRIST)
- Gays and Lesbians Association in Zimbabwe (GALZ)
- General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union Zimbabwe (GAPWUZ)
- Gwanda Residents Association
- Habakkuk Trust
- Heal Zimbabwe Trust
- Institute for Young Women Development (IYWD)
- International Revolutionary League (RILFI)
- JAPA TRUST
- Katswe Sistahood
- Legal Resources Foundation (LRF)
- Masvingo Residents and Ratepayers Association
- Masvingo Residents Trust
- Media Monitoring Project in Zimbabwe (MMPZ)
- Mission to Live
- Musasa Project
- National Association for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH)
- National Movement of Catholic Student (NMCS)
- Non -Violence Action Support Centre (NOVASC)
- Parliamentary Monitoring Trust
- Platform for Youth Development (PYD)
- Plumtree Development Trust
- Progressive Teachers’ Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ)
- Radio Dialogue
- Reconciliation Trust
- Restoration of Human Rights Zimbabwe (ROHR)
- Savannah Trust
- Shalom Project
- Students Solidarity Trust (SST)
- Tag a Life International
- Tisangane Club
- Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ)
- Uhuru Network
- Women in Politics Support Unit (WIPSU)
- Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ)
- Women’s Trust
- Young Voices Network
- Youth Agenda Trust
- Youth Agrarian Society
- Youth Alliance for Democracy Trust (YAD)
- Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (YIDEZ)
- . Zimbabwe Christian Alliance
- Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (Zimcet)
- Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt Development (Zimcodd)
- Zimbabwe Democratic Institute
- Zimbabwe Farmers Union Development Trust (ZFUDT)
- Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (Zimrights)
- Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum
- Zimbabwe Institute for Social Transformation
- Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
- Zimbabwe Liberators Platform (ZLP)
- Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU)
- Zimbabwe Organisation of Youth in Politics (ZOYP)
- Zimbabwe Pastors Forum
- Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP)
- Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights (ZPHR)
- Zimbabwe Policy Debate National Association
- Zimbabwe Students Christian Movement (ZSCM)
- Zimbabwe United Residents Association (ZURA)
- Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA)
- Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre & Network (ZWRCN)
- Zimbabwe Young Women’s Network for Peacebuilding (ZYWNP)
- Zimbabwe Youth Movement (ZYM)
- Zimbabwe Association of Doctors’ for Human Rights (ZADHR)