Report on Public Hearings on Constitutional Amendment 2
The Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs (Justice Committee) commenced public hearings on Constitutional Amendment No. 2 on 15 June 2020. The Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST) started monitoring the process on 16 June. Below is a summary of the hearings that SAPST monitored. These were chaired by Hon. Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
Report on a Public Hearing Held at Marondera Mbuya Nehanda Hall on 16 June 2020
The chairperson started off the meeting by giving a summary of the key features of the proposed amendments. Where they did not follow, participants were asked to pose questions, which they did. Two batches of participants were accommodated into the two meetings that were held at Marondera. Participants were orderly, and numbered around 150: three batches were dealt with due to COVID-19 social distancing issues.
Highlights of the Submissions:
- The Constitution is still new, and ought to be implemented in full
- Why are we amending it before fully implementing it?
- Patchwork on a new Constitution is not advisable
- The effect of the proposed amendments is to concentrate power in the office of the President, and in his person
- It is good to elect running mates; it ensures that successors are groomed before their ascent
- The running mates system ought to be implemented before it is discarded
- The quota system for women has proved ineffective to achieve the spirit of the Constitution: It must be discontinued in 2023
- The proposed youth quota is ill advised: In view of the economic situation both the gender and youth quota must fit into the 210 seats of the National Assembly
- The Public Protector is unnecessary as the office will simply hive off work from the Human Rights Commission
- Judges must retire as under the current provision. That creates opportunities for younger lawyers to also aspire to
- Subjecting public appointments to one office, of the President has negative implications for democracy
- The amendments are taking us backwards in terms of democratic development
- All public expenditure, including agreements entered into by the President must be subjected to parliamentary approval
- Zimbabwe faces heavy debts probably because some of the debt contraction is not subjected to scrutiny
- Parliament is a representative body and must scrutinise all public agreements in the public interest
- The President must use his executive authority to make public appointments
- The President must implement agreements he enters into without reference to Parliament
- Young people deserve space in governance, but not in the way proposed in the amendment
Attendants requested that Parliament must give feedback to stakeholders on decisions arrived at on legislation after consultation. They also sought assurances that their views would be valued and utilised by the Committee.
Report on the Public Hearing Held at Mutare on 17 June 2020:
The meeting was held at Queens Hall in the city centre. Hundreds pitched up. The venue was good because it was big and could accommodate each of the three batches easily taking social distancing issues into account.
CSOs attended in large numbers, including organisations that SAPST partners with, such as the National Association of Youth Organisations (NAYO), the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCOZ), VERITAS, the Legal Resources Foundation (LRF), and WALPE. All these had several representatives that spoke. In addition such active citizens as David Mutambirwa that SAPST partners on engaging people of Mutare, brought in several others that also made representations.
These are the key submissions made at the gathering:
- There is need for an amendment that states that for any constitutional amendment there must be a referendum
- Considering that Zimbabwe is in a crisis, both medical and economic, the timing of the amendment is entirely wrong
- There are other issues that are crying for attention that government could employ its efforts, and not the Constitution
- A number of provisions in the 2013 Constitution are yet to be implemented
- Women want gender parity (50/50) and not the quota proposed in the Bill; the same applies to youth representation
- The oversight function of Parliament over the Executive, including on international agreements must be retained as in the current provisions
- Debt contraction requires serious monitoring by Parliament
- The retirement age of Judges must be retained as it is
- Proposed amendments have implications on the separation of powers and entrench Executive dominance over other arms of the State
- It is a basic principle of governance that all public expenditure must be subject to oversight
- Lack of transparency in public expenditure promotes corruption
- Citizen participation is important in governance: the interview processes encapsulate citizen participation
- External debt is ballooning: proposed changes will only fuel this, hence the need for public scrutiny
- Sovereign debt has inter-generational implications
- It is more important to strengthen institutions rather than to strengthen individuals
- There must be a referendum for these proposals
- The interview process is critical for all public offices, including for judges and the Prosecutor General
- The amendments are a subversion of the people’s will as encapsulated in the 2013 Constitution
- The proposed appointment process for public officials will result in officials that bear allegiance to the appointing authority and not the Constitution
- Why is Parliament allowing the Executive to usurp their power to scrutinise actions of the Executive and hold them to account?
- The proposed youth quota is discriminatory and not open to all youths
- The devolution envisaged under the Constitution must be implemented
- Political power must not be centralised in individuals: this tilts the electoral playing field in favour of an individual
- The running mates system is a good succession formula
- Political parties must implement gender parity in parties
- Devolution provisions in the Bill encourage Gerrymandering
- What value will accrue from the change of name from Civil Service to Public Service?
- Is there a shortage of manpower, so that the proposed extension of terms for Judges can be justified on that basis?
- Unchecked power is unsustainable
- The link between the census and delimitation is important, and
- There must be changes to the quota to incorporate women with disability.
Report on the Public Hearing Held in Rusape on 18 June 2020:
The meeting was held on 18 June at Vengere 602 Hall. Although the weather was hostile, the people braved the chilly and drizzly weather to attend. Four batches of participants were attended to, with the Committee commencing its work well ahead of schedule.
People spoke on own behalf, while some represented CSOs, such as Women and Law in Southern Africa, NAYO, WICOZ and WALPE.
Highlights of the submissions:
- During the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) led process, all Zimbabweans had been given an opportunity to contribute to the constitutional process. They had made their contributions. The result was a product that they approved in a referendum. The current ongoing Committee consultation process was flawed as it was not inclusive;
- The quota system for women was flawed as it did not extend to local authorities
- Zimbabwe should work towards the 50-50 gender parity in the Constitution
- The President must not appoint people as outlined in the Bill as it would influence their decisions
- Vice-Presidents must be elected by the people: appointments encourage corruption
- The Constitution was still new, and there was no need to amend it
- All citizens contributed to the 2013 Constitution, now a handful of people wanted to change it
- Parliamentary oversight must never be removed over the Executive
- The current gender quota is unfair and does not give effect to the letter and spirit of the Constitution
- Judges should retire as provided under the current provisions
- Promotions of judicial officers must be transparent and through an interview process
- The President must only nominate ministers from Parliament
- The voice of the people is the voice of God: That voice was heard in 2013. People spoke in 2013. The amendment process must follow the COPAC process
- Zimbabwe belongs to all that live in it; and everyone must be consulted
- The President must not be given too much power. Unfettered power leads to dictatorship
- There was need to have the Constitution known by the people
- The Prosecutor-General must undergo an interview process
- Without parliamentary oversight the country will get more debt ridden: even the country itself may be loaned away
- Judges must undergo an interview process
- All international agreements must be subject to parliamentary approval
- Why is it necessary to amend a new Constitution before it is implemented?
- The amendment will disrupt and render the Human Rights Commission ineffective
- The quota system is unnecessary and ineffective
Only about three people supported the amendment out of the batches that SAPST attended. The participants implored the Committee not to change what they would have said.
Report on a Justice Committee Public Hearing Held Via Zoom on 19 June 2020:
Although there were technical glitches arising from possible hacking in the initial stages, and a level of inexperience, the Committee eventually got on top of things. All participants without exception were opposed to the Bill. Public hearings for Harare were cancelled and converted into virtual meetings. The high cost of data, the COVID-19 lockdown and the last minute cancellations would impact on contributions for Hararians.
Highlights of the Submissions:
- The hearing ought to have been held physically as had been done in all other provinces. Why was Harare being excluded?
- Why the Executive gunning for amendments before the Constitution was fully implemented?
- The amendments ought to be subjected to a referendum
- The 2013 Constitution was a product of a consultative process
- The President must not be involved in the promotion of judicial officers as it impacts on accountability, separation of powers and the democratic process
- Taking away some functions from the Human Rights Commission is undemocratic. The Public Protector was removed because it was ineffective and lacked public trust
- Public interviews embrace public participation in line with the letter and spirit of the Constitution
- The amendment will interfere with the principle of separation of powers
- The amendment encourages Executive overreach on other arms of the State
- The amendment gives too much power to the President, and takes away the rights of citizens
- The amendment is undemocratic and creates autocracy, and affects judicial independence and the checks and balances in the current Constitution
- The women and youth quotas amount to tokenism, they are an insult
- The amendment is irrelevant and does not address the challenges the country is facing
- The delimitation issue can be addressed via an Act of Parliament
- The issues of the Chief Secretary can be addressed through an Act of Parliament
- Once MPs are removed from the Metropolitan Councils, the remaining institutions will look like the current councils
- The timing of the hearings was wrong; and virtual meetings are expensive and exclusionary
- The Executive are amassing power: to what end?
- The amendment reflects disrespect of democratic rule. It was a process of consolidating power into one office.
- The amendments reflect no will for political reform. Recommendations of the Montlante Commission
- The clause on delinking the census from elections will promote gerrymandering.
- The proposals on the PG are worse than those in the Lancaster House Constitution. Why is Zimbabwe taking this route?
- The patchwork on a good document is entirely unnecessary.
Report on the Radio Public Hearings Held on 19 June 2020 on National FM:
The hearings were inordinately delayed due to what we gather were technical glitches, starting after 12.40 hours instead of 11.30 hours. A couple of Members of the Committee hosted the hearings, led by Chairman, Hon Mataranyika.
- The quota system had failed, and should not continue. It does not address the parity issues. Women must have 105 of the National Assembly seats.
- Why do you want to amend a Constitution approved by over 90% of the population?
- No to the Bill
- VPs should be elected by the people
- The Bill does not advance the cause of the youth
- The Bill serves personal, not national interests
- The Bill seeks to give the President too much power. We do not want it
- We do not want to add more seats
- Why do you not cover all areas for public areas?
- Why are we amending when we have not yet implemented it in full?
- Women want 105 seats in the National Assembly, not the quota. There should be equal representation of women. Women should constitute 50%
- We need to include the youth in Parliament
- We do not want a patched constitution. It is good as it is
- President should not exceed two terms
- President should not accumulate powers. President will abuse those powers. The one centre of power concept is wrong
- No changes to number of ministers appointed from outside Parliament
- Judges must be interviewed, and not handpicked
- The Bill must be held in abeyance
- President must not add more ministers from outside Parliament
- Parliamentary oversight must be retained as is.
- Public interviews are important for public officers. It promotes transparency
- Violates principles of democracy, such as separation of powers and independence of judiciary
- Amendment promotes cronyism
- Retirement age for civil servants should be the same
- Youth representation compliments the women’s quota
- Youth should be elected not appointed to Parliament
- Is the President God, why should he appoint everyone?
- Judicial work requires concentration, 70 is too high an age
- Corruption is the problem, not the Constitution
- Protector should be appointed by the public for transparency
- Retirement age should apply to everyone including the President
- Many people could not give their views because of the COVI-19 lockdown
- Amendment 2 reflects that we are going in circles: We are going to the First Republic once again-the appointment process is not transparent.
There was only one person who said that Amendment is good but taking away parliamentary oversight is bad. The other one said that the increase in outside Parliament ministers was in order, but the rest of the proposals were not recommended.
The majority of participants at the public hearings held by the Justice Committee were against the introduction of the Bill. They see only negatives arising from the Bill, such as the relapse into autocratic rule, the promotion of Executive dominance of other state institutions and the continued conduct of disputed electoral processes. It remains to be seen whether the Executive will listen. Time will tell.