22 May 2021
ON the eighth anniversary of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) urges government to respect the will of the people by fully implementing all provisions and refraining from passing amendments that undermine the founding values of Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy.
The Constitution came into force 8 years ago on 22 May 2013 but it has not yet been fully implemented by the authorities. The failure to give effect to all of the provisions of the Constitution amounts to a flagrant disregard of the wishes of the public that are embodied in the Constitution. The Constitution was emphatically endorsed by the public through a referendum in 2013. As the supreme law of the nation, the Constitution binds the state and requires it to give effect to all of its provisions. The state’s failure to ensure that all the
provisions are implemented undermines the Constitution’s authority as the supreme law and flouts tenets of democracy. In addition, the state’s non-compliance is an affront to the rule of law.
Moreover, the state has a duty to refrain from undermining Zimbabwe’s democracy through amendments of the Constitution that disregard the founding values of the state which include the rule of law, the separation of powers and transparency. The recently passed
Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.2) Act, 2021 (No.2 of 2021) introduced changes that significantly weakened the independence of the judiciary, participatory democracy and the separation of powers.
As a law-based organisation, ZLHR is greatly concerned by the removal of public interviews from the selection process of judges of the higher courts and the introduction of a clause which allows the President to extend the tenure of Supreme Court and Constitutional
Court judges beyond the previous retirement age of 70 years.
The removal of public interviews from the selection process of judges reduces transparency within government and the public’s participation, in contravention of the precepts of participatory democracy. Similarly, the removal of the running mates clause restricts participatory democracy to the extent that it removes the public’s ability to vote for a Vice-President as a running mate during elections. These amendments, among others that were introduced by the amendment, concentrate powers in the Executive and thereby violate the principle of separation of powers. The separation of powers is a fundamental principle of our constitutional order and the rule of law and should thus be respected by the state.
ZLHR also calls upon the state to desist from violating provisions of the Constitution. The authorities recently purported to extend the tenure of the former Chief Justice Luke Malaba, in contravention of section 328(7) of the Constitution which states that an amendment of a term-limit of any public official cannot benefit any person who occupied that office before the amendment. The High Court set aside this purported extension of the tenure of the former Chief Justice.
On this eighth anniversary of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, ZLHR urges government to;
• Respect the will of the people that is enshrined in the Constitution by fully implementing all of the provisions of the Constitution;
• Refrain from undermining the founding values of the Constitution and Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy;
• Desist from violating provisions of the Constitution.