Zanu PF shuts key chapter on sanity

THE Zanu PF government this week pushed the frontiers of demagoguery to absurd lengths after it used its numerical advantage in the House to pass the egregious Constitutional Amendment Bill no 17 which will seriously erode our

basic rights.

The contentious amendment removes the rights of individuals to secure the protection of the law where such rights have been violated by the state in the name of so-called national interest.

It strips landowners of their right to appeal against expropriation of their land in the courts and puts all real estate on a 99-year lease from government. It empowers government to confiscate passports from political opponents, especially those criticising it outside the country.

The amendment also establishes a 66-member Senate, 50 of whom will be elected while the rest will be made up of 10 traditional chiefs and six presidential appointees.

Zanu PF MPs, straitjacketed by political dogma and blind allegiance to the incumbent, broke into song to celebrate a pyrrhic victory which only confirms our worst fears that the party cannot lead any economic recovery. They were celebrating constitutional tyranny which has nothing to do with economic development.

Leader of the House and Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament the passage of the Bill would “close the chapter of colonisation”. Applause! But it will also extend the epoch of international isolation, cutting away foreign direct investment and simply make Zimbabweans poorer.

But the Zanu PF government does not care. President Mugabe has hogged the international limelight for the wrong reasons and seems to relish it immensely.

The execution of the land reform under the pretext of black empowerment was a disaster that precipitated the current economic meltdown. The new amendment will prevent dispossessed farmers from contesting the acquisitions in court.

After this policy assault on land rights, what can stop government from forcibly expropriating assets in other sectors of the economy such as mines and manufacturing?

The most shocking aspect of the whole process is the complicit silence of the judiciary despite this callous kick in the teeth. What kind of judiciary allows government to abridge individual rights by barring courts from hearing disputes on issues of fundamental rights? There is all the evidence of a suborned judiciary after members got huge spoils from expropriated land.

The amendment will make it easier for government officials and party mandarins to cherry-pick the remaining productive farms for themselves. Finance minister Herbert Murerwa and central bank governor Gideon Gono have spoken of restoring confidence in the farming sector. The new Bill is working in the opposite direction.

Not content with trashing fundamental rights, the plan to withdraw the passports of opposition politicians and other government critics smacks of petty vindictiveness. There is no hiding from the fact that this is bad, target-specific law by individuals seeking revenge.

“This will take away the right of those people to go outside the country and ask other countries to impose sanctions on Zimbabwe,” said Chinamasa.

Because all senior Zanu PF party members and government officials are banned from travelling to Europe and the United States, what better way to get even with the opposition than threatening to withdraw their passports? There is no recourse to the courts for those dispossessed. They have to challenge the Constitution itself, a very cumbersome task indeed.

The democratic space has been shrinking since Independence and it is getting increasingly difficult to expand it through legal means. This is embarrassing for a party which boasts of having brought democracy to use parliament to deny people their rights under the pretext of promoting patriotism.

Then there is the infantile ruse that government wants to extend the oversight functions of the legislature by introducing a Senate. The upper house will be another layer of autocracy and a conveyor belt of archaic legislation.

This is another omnibus of the Zanu PF patronage system seeking to accommodate denizens of the party’s political scrapyard, those who lost in the party primary elections at the beginning of the year and the ignoramuses waiting for scraps from the king’s table.

President Mugabe confirmed this on the eve of the election when he told party supporters in Hurungwe that the Senate would accommodate those who would have lost in the elections.

The sight of Shuvai Mahofa leading fellow Zanu PF MPs in festivities in the House on Tuesday summed up the tragedy of this country. Here is a group of mandarins celebrating an own goal because they do not know which direction they are scoring.

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