MUTARE residents yesterday rejected proposed amendments to the Constitution saying they entrench power in individuals contrary to the principles of separation of power, transparency and accountability.
Speaking during a public hearing on the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 2, residents, Community Based Organisations (CBO), Civic Society Organisations (CSO) and academia, dismissed proposed amendments to the 2013 Constitution.
Citizens turned out in their numbers, resulting in the chair of the Parliament team, Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga creating two separate groups, one inside Queens Hall, while other sat outside the hall in observance of social distance.
Health teams were on hand to check people’s temperatures, sanitize hands and enforce social distance, as people initially jostled for entrance into the venue forcing a brief adjournment of proceedings.
In oral submissions, there was a resonating message in most submissions made by residents, who demanded that government should make tangible steps to align laws to the Constitution and fully implement it before effecting retrogressive amendments.
Residents also questioned the prudence of amending the Constitution through a Bill of parliament, when it was a byproduct of an extensive outreach program (COPAC) and voted for by the people through a referendum.
Centre for Research and Development, James Mupfumi said the amendments should not see the light of day as they are a drawback on the principles of good governance and violate founding principles of the constitution.
Mupfumi said the amendments would allow the executive unfettered powers to borrow, enter into agreements that place financial obligations on the fiscus without being accountable to the Parliament.
He said the executive should not be allowed to augment its powers, but should be pushed to fulfill some of the promises made by the new dispensation that it would accelerate reforms to strengthen founding principles and values of the constitution.
“We have a progressive constitution that protects the rights of the people so we have a keen interest in it, particularly those that may want to amend it in violation of the founding principles of transparency, citizen participation and accountability.
“Three quarters of the proposed amendments remove or violates the fundamental values of the constitution, so we are totally against this.
“We actually wish that government comes up with bills that cement realization of the protection of human rights and strengthen citizen participation, transparency and accountability in governance,” said Mupfumi.
He added, “The only amendment that we wish is carried forward is the one relating to provincial councils because it ensure the principle of separation of powers is realised and that devolution is effectively implemented.”
Youths also spoke against the amendments, under the banner of the National Association of Youth Organizations (NAYO) rejecting proposals which it said would limit public participation and judicial accountability.
It rejected several amendments, in extensive position paper, which it said were contradictory to constitutional provisions and would result in power excesses by the executive in violation of principles of transparency and oversight.
NAYO said the amendment on youth quota ‘directly impacts on the constitutional objective for youth representation and participation in political, social, economic and other spheres of life considering that the youth demographic makes up 60% of Zimbabwe’s total population.’
“…Amendment impacts on the democratic rights of the youths as an important social group and also the democratic space afforded the young people of Zimbabwe in governance issues.”
On the amendment on parliamentary oversight on fiscal obligations, NAYO said “…exclusion of Parliament in approving the validity of such agreements does go against the spirit and purport of the Constitution as well as against principles of transparency and oversight.
“It goes against transparency, good governance, accountability, fiscal probity, principles of good administration and other foundational values and principles of the Constitution.”
Some of the proposed amendments to the Constitution include the abolishing of the Presidential running mate, appointment of Judges of Superior Courts instead of public interviews- where the President would be able to promote judges without interviews.
Amendments would also give the President given power to appoint 7 Ministers who are not MPs instead of the current 5, extension of the women’s quota Proportional Representation for 10 more years from 2023, despite the constitution affirming gender parity of 50/50.