Constitution Watch 11-2009


[1st October 2009]

More News About the Constitution-Making Process

What is the timeframe now?  Obviously the outreach programme is already delayed.  The principals have not yet been asked to set a new timeframe but have indicated that the dates were not set in stone.  Minister Matinenga, Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, acknowledges that no way can the GPA deadline for finishing the public consultation of 13th November be met but believes that the GPA probably allowed more time than was necessary for the next stage, which is the drafting stage, so he is hopeful that this will still be complete by its GPA date of 13th February.  

New Management Committee:  consists of the three Select Committee co-chairs, MPs Mwonzora, Mangwana, Coltart/Mkhosi, with Ministers Ncube, Biti, and Chinamasa – the GPA chief negotiators, and Minister Matinenga.  It will meet on Monday 5th October to map out roles.  According to the Minister’s statement this Committee will provide leadership and policy direction to the constitution-making process.  

New Steering Committee:  consists of the Select Committee chairpersons with Minister Matinenga and two persons who are supposed to be representing civil society [although not selected by civil society].  The names given by Minister Matinenga are Dr Sadza [she has not been asked yet as she is out of country] and Dr Makhurane [who has accepted in principle, but needs to know the terms of reference, etc].  This will be the implementing committee responsible for managing the operations of the constitution-making process.

Independent Secretariat:  premises not yet found, recruiting not started – the executive director’s post will be advertised shortly.

Fundraising:  The Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs is working on a project document for UNDP to raise donor funding and funds will also be available from the Treasury and from the business sector.   The Independent Secretariat will manage the funds.  

The Select Committee:  the main function of its 25 members now will be to supervise the outreach teams

Role of Parliament:  The Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] was told by the Prime Minister [an ex officio member of the CSRO] at a meeting in July that the constitution-making process would be reviewed by the GPA principals and the result communicated – but the Speaker says he is still awaiting an official communication about the new structure.  Until then and until he knows more details, the CSRO does not know precisely what its implications are for the role of Parliament – will they have to go on funding meetings of the Select Committee, whether Parliament’s facilities will still be used, etc.?

No Mysterious New Draft Constitution

Wednesday’s Herald story that “MDC-T legislators were up in arms over a directive by party leader Morgan Tsvangirai to push forward  a draft constitution written by “unknown” people” is incorrect.  At an MDC-T Parliamentary caucus meeting a two-page document was circulated outlining the party’s key positions on various constitutional issues.  It was proposed that their MPs would discuss this document to assist them in the meetings they hold in their constituencies to inform people about the constitution-making process.  The document [in full below] may be of interest to those working on a new Constitution, but as with the rest of the country the party is still debating and consulting the people on what it will try to get into the constitution.   

A Summary of MDC-T Positions on the Constitution-Making Process

1.  Citizenship

1.1.   The MDC believes that the Constitution should guarantee the right to citizenship of everyone born in Zimbabwe and to everyone who has acquired citizenship through secondary vehicles such as residence or marriage.

1.2.   The Constitution of Zimbabwe should allow for dual citizenship at the very minimum and that once citizenship is granted, it cannot be taken away.

2.  Bill of Rights

The MDC believes in a Constitution with a strong and expanded Bill of Rights that provides for both primary and secondary rights. These include the Right to life; Freedom from slavery and forced labour; Right to personal security; Right to personal liberty; Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment; Right to dignity and reputation; Freedom from discrimination; Freedom of conscience; Freedom of the press and media; Freedom of speech and expression; Right to language and cultural life; Minority rights; Freedom of assembly and association; Freedom of movement and residence; Protection of law:  equality before the law; Protection of law:  fairness in criminal cases; Protection of law:  fairness in civil proceedings; Right to information; Right to just administrative action; Rights of children, their parents and guardians; Rights of women; Right to establish and maintain educational institutions; Right to property; Right to Housing; Right to Health care, food, water and social security; Right to education; Right to privacy; Political rights; Worker’s rights; Right to a clean environment. The MDC believes that the right to freedom of life should be absolute and therefore rejects capital punishment. In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination must be broad to include the protection of personal preferences. The MDC also feels very strongly about gender equality. Gender equality must not be a slogan but respected. Above this, a woman must have preferences over her body. The Bill of Rights must be entrenched and no Parliament can enact laws that dilute the Bill of Rights. More importantly, all provisions in the Bill of Rights cannot be amended or altered save through a referendum.


3.  Land

  1. The MDC believes that Land Reform has not produced a perfect outcome and therefore there must be a rationalization done through an Act of Parliament that provides and audit, maximum number of farms and a cogent form of redistribution based on the principles of need and ability.
  2. The MDC believes that issues of rationalization of land must be done through a Land Commission established through an Act of Parliament.
  3. Having established the need for Land Reform, the Constitution should recognize the right of individuals to own land and indeed the existence of private property rights.
  4. As in all normal Constitutions the MDC recognizes the right of the State to acquire land for the public good subject to immediate, just and fair compensation and the unfettered right to approach the Courts in the event of a dispute. 


4.  Executive Powers

a.  Executive powers of the State should reside in a Cabinet, the President and the Prime Minister.

b.  The President should be elected directly by the people. The President appoints a Prime Minister from an MP whose Party commands the majority in Parliament.

c.  No person holding the office of President and Prime Minister should do so for more than two terms. Parliament must have oversight on executive powers.

5.  Parliament

     a.  Parliament must have the right to impeach the President.

     b.  Parliament must be bicameral, that is, two houses, the Lower and Upper House.

     c.  Election to the Lower House of Assembly shall be done on a hybrid system of First-Past-The-Post and Proportional Representation electoral systems provided that the principle of gender must guide the selection and appointments of candidates.

     d.  The election of the Upper House (Senate) shall be done on a Proportional Representation based on Provinces.

     e.  The MDC recognizes that 50% of MPs should be women.

     f.   The right of recall for the MPs should be guaranteed in the Constitution


6.  Local Government

     a.  The MDC believes in the fundamental principle of devolution of power to communities.

     b.  The MDC recognizes Traditional Leaders as part of the National Government structure.

7.  Independent Commissions

     a.  Acts of Parliament must provide for the establishment of the following institutions which help strengthen constitutional democracy;

  i.     Human and Peoples’ Rights Commission

  ii.     Gender Commission

  iii.    The Auditor-General

  iv.   Independent Electoral Commission

  v.    Anti-Corruption Commission

  vi.   Land Commission

  vii.   Development Commission

  viii.  The Office of the Public Protector

  ix.   Labour Commission

  x.    Children’s Rights Commission


      b.  The MDC believes that elections should be done through an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) whose members are selected by Members of Parliament after a process of interviews.

     c.  Members of the IEC should have limited terms of office and should enjoy the same protection and independence as Judges.

     d.  The IEC must be solely responsible for the issues of delimitation of constituencies.

     e.  The integrity of the voter’s roll must be protected constitutionally and must be subject to scrutiny by citizens and Parliament.

     f.   Election dates must be defined in the Constitution.


8.  Public Finance

      a.  The country’s finances must be managed in a transparent manner and Parliament must have oversight over the same.

     b.  There must be an independent Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe whose sole mandate is the determination of monetary policy and inflation targeting as defined by Treasury.

     c.  The Governor to the RBZ must be a technocrat and financial expert appointed by Parliament purely on financial competence, expertise and experience.

9.  The Judiciary

     a.  The MDC strongly believes in an Independent Judiciary whose independence is constitutionally protected.


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