GOVERNMENT’s attempt to amend the Constitution through Constitutional Amendment (No.1) Bill to enable the President to appoint a new Chief Justice (CJ), is faced with a setback, with residents in most parts of the country, rejecting the move, saying it is too early to tamper with the governance charter adopted in 2013.
The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs led by Hon. Ziyambi Ziyambi conducted public hearings, where the general sentiment is that the proposed Bill would compromise the principle of separation of power, as it seeks to give the President excessive power over the judiciary.
To date, the Committee has held meetings in Harare, Gweru and Masvingo, Bulawayo, Marondera, Chinhoyi, Victoria Falls and Mt Darwin.
In Masvingo province, there were no takers for the Constitution Amendment (number 1) Bill, with participants from across the political divide, unanimously rejecting the Bill for various reasons. A representative from the Masvingo residents Trust Mr Owen Chigerwe said there was no need to amend the Constitution which has not yet been implemented.
“Why are we rushing to amend a Constitution yet we have not seen it being implemented. Government should concentrate on implementing the new Constitution before they even think of amendment,” he said.
A Gweru resident, Nakai Munyuki, said the Government’s rush to amend the Constitution, which has not yet been fully implemented raised a stink.
“The doctrine of separation of powers should be adhered to and the executive arm of the government should never be allowed to interfere with appoint of the judiciary. In any case, it is disheartening that efforts are being made to amend a Constitution that has not been fully implemented and where alignment of acts of law has not been done,” he said.
Another contributor, Xobani Mhlanga said the Executive should not be allowed to usurp the powers of other arms of government.
Brighton Zvinavashe said the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) should be given the sole mandate to appoint top judicial officers through public interviews, as provided for in the Constitution. In Chinhoyi Gwendoline Chinake said: “Let the Constitution, which is barely three years, work first. What are the fears now that you rush to make amendments? Have people from the JSC failed to do their work?”
Amendments to section 180 of the Constitution would allow the President, in consultation with JSC, to appoint the CJ, Deputy Chief Justice and the Judge President of the High Court.