Hundreds of Bulawayo residents turned up at a parliamentary public hearing to reject the proposed Constitutional Amendment No.2 Bill, which seeks to introduce at least 27 amendments to the 2013 constitution.
The proposals are being pushed by the Emmerson Mnangagwa led government and three teams of the Parliamentary Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs have been sent to hold meetings across the country.
In Bulawayo, the meeting was held on Wednesday afternoon at a local hotel and was presided over by Makoni South MP Misheck Mataranyika.
Before the meeting started residents had already formed a long winding queue waiting their turn to gain access to the meeting room due to Covid-19 regulation which only allows a maximum of 50 people at a public gathering.
Seeing the numbers that were present, the parliamentary portfolio resolved to allow them into the meeting in batches in line with COVID -19 regulations.
Speaker after speaker argued why the government was in a rush to amend the 2013 constitution when it had not been implemented fully and said the government had failed to consult people on whether it should be amended.
The general sentiment was the proposed Bill would compromise the principle of separation of power, as it seeks to give President Emmerson Mnangagwa excessive power.
Contentious issues that residents rejected involved extension of women seats in parliament saying they wanted 50-50 representation, the additional number of unelected ministers and mostly, the retirement age of judges where the amendment seeks to increase it to 75 years from the mandatory 70 years.
Currently, Section 186 of the Constitution (Tenure of office for Judges) states the mandatory retirement age for judges is 70 years where judges of the Constitutional Court are appointed for a non-renewable term of not more than fifteen years.
A resident, Charles Dube said the amendments were an excuse for political expediency.
“Instead of giving token seats to women and youth, the constitution should focus on structural issues that prevent these groups from participating in elections. Addressing symptoms will not work because it’s the nature of politics that drives people away. Even the age of when one can be eligible to become a judge is 40 years what happens to capable young legal minds out there who want to be judges,” he asked.
Another resident, Themba Maphosa said the quota system given to youth and women should be scrapped as awarding them numbers in government did not mean their voices would be heard.
“Why patch a new dress before it is worn? Who came up with these amendments and why should a president appoint own judges, as that compromises the judiciary,” he said.
A youth activist and artist, Desire Moyo said the 10 seats that were supposed to be allocated to the youth should be scrapped off.
“Youths are capable to be elected on own merit, besides the 10 seats are few to hold real power,” he said.
Ward 17 Councillor Sikhululekile Moyo from argued that amending the seven-year-old constitution was already violating it.
“Where is devolution? It has not been fully implemented but now the government want to change what we the people sat down and voted yes for,” she noted.
An overwhelming 94.49 percent voted for the 2013 Constitution at a referendum.
Last week civil society organisations and trade unions called on the Parliament to suspend the public hearings on the proposed Constitutional Amendment No. 2 Bill saying the discussions may not bring the desired outcome as only a few people would be allowed, and that would not reflect the view of the populace.