Disgruntled Zimbabweans have launched an online petition #ResistDictatorship which culminated in a virtual rally in response to controversial constitutional amendments passed early this week to give the executive more powers.
The Zimbabwe Constitutional Amendment Bill (Numbers 1 and 2), scraps the presidential running mate clause in the supreme law and gives the president power to appoint judges, also scrapping the 70-year age limit for judges. The bill now awaits the president’s assent.
Despite Zanu-PF not having a two-thirds majority in the Senate, it was aided by the MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora to pass what it calls “historic reforms”.
Civic society and the greater opposition fear that Zanu-PF stands to get away with more changes to the constitution now that it has an ally in the form of the MDC-T.
“A constitution cannot just be changed as if it is the code of conduct for a burial society,” said Musa Kika, the executive director of the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum.
Dr Ibbo Mandaza, the director of Sapes, a local think-tank organisation, said: “This is a coup government, a government disdainful of constitutionalism.”
Veteran Zimbabwean musician and critic Thomas Mapfumo said Zimbabweans should not expect legitimate decisions from an illegitimate government.
MDC Alliance’s David Coltart said “the mutilation” of Zimbabwe’s constitution is born of fear, not confidence”.
“Zanu-PF know they cannot win an election so have in desperation acted to select their own judges. The judiciary is their last defence — legitimising a patently illegal process,” he said.
Zanu-PF also intends to introduce the Patriotic Bill that will seek to criminalise citizens who criticise Zimbabwe and its leadership.
The law will effectively stifle freedom of expression, media freedom and the opposition ahead of the 2023 elections.
There are fears that Zanu-PF could also push for an increase in the minimum age limit of presidential election candidates from 40 to 52. If this goes ahead, it would effectively disqualify MDC Alliance leader Nelson Chamisa from challenging for the top job in 2023.
Chamisa narrowly lost to President Emmerson Mnangagwa in a hotly disputed election in July 2018.