In the previous paper we outlined the doctrine of separation of powers between the three branches of government, namely the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. We noted that although the doctrine shows how important it is for the three branches to be autonomous, it does not deal with the nature and extent of the powers that each of those branches should exercise within their own spheres. In this and subsequent papers we shall deal with the powers of the individual branches, starting with those of the Executive.
The Executive, the branch of government headed by the President, is currently the most powerful of the three branches. The President and his Ministers control the Defence Forces, the Police and the civil administration; they represent the country in its dealings with foreign governments; and generally they are responsible for running the day-to-day affairs of the country. The Executive is the branch of government which impinges most frequently on the lives of ordinary people.
What are the Powers of the Executive?
Under the present Zimbabwean Constitution, the President’s powers can be grouped roughly into the following categories:
· Power over the Legislature, namely the power to summon, adjourn and dissolve Parliament, and the power to appoint members of Parliament.
· Power over the Judiciary, namely the power to appoint judges and other members of the judiciary.
· Power to appoint members of the Executive, namely Cabinet Ministers and administrative officers such as public servants.
· Power to appoint ambassadors and members of constitutional Commissions.
· Power over the security forces, namely the Defence Forces and the Police.
· Legislative power, namely the power to enact legislation.
· Power to declare war and make peace
· Miscellaneous powers, such as the exercise of the prerogative of mercy and the power to confer honours and precedence.
In addition to the specific powers mentioned in the Constitution, the President is vested with “the executive authority of Zimbabwe”. This seems to give him power, through his Ministers, to run the general administration of the country.
The Global Political Agreement [GPA] has not altered the nature of these powers, though it has made some changes to the persons who can exercise them [i.e. the President or Prime Minister or the Cabinet] and the way in which they are exercised [i.e. with or without consultation].