MDC-T Sets out its Constitution Proposals

THE Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC has proposed that a new constitution should introduce proportional representation in parliament, limit terms of office of the president and prime minister, abolish capital punishment and reintroduce dual citizenship, among other human rights and governance issues.

Zimbabwe has embarked on a constitution-making process in line with the global political agreement signed last September between President Robert Mugabe and MDC leaders Tsvangirai and Arthur Mutambara.

The process has been dogged by financial constraints and disagreements on whether or not the Kariba Draft, crafted by Zanu PF and the two MDC formations, should be used as the major reference document.

Zanu PF wants the draft to be the sole reference document while the MDC formations oppose that. It was against this background that the MDC-T came up with a position paper which the Zimbabwe Independent obtained this week.

In the paper circulated to the party’s MPs, the MDC said it had developed key positions on what will “self-evidently be contested issues” in the ongoing constitution-making process.

“These positions are internal MDC positions which it does not intend to impose on anyone, but as a significant political player, it hopes will be respected and taken into consideration in the constitution-making process,” the paper said.

The MDC proposed that the new 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.

“The Constitution of Zimbabwe should allow for dual citizenship at the very minimum,” the paper said. “The Constitution of Zimbabwe should guarantee that once citizenship is granted, it cannot be taken away.”

Dual citizenship was outlawed in 1980.

The party said it wanted a constitution with a “strong and expanded” Bill of Rights that provides for both primary and secondary rights.

“The MDC believes that the right to freedom of life should be absolute and therefore rejects capital punishment,” the paper said. “In addition, the right to freedom from discrimination, given our history of discrimination and intolerance, 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, the party proposed, should be entrenched in the constitution and no parliament should enact laws that dilute the bill.

“More importantly, all provisions of the Bill of Rights cannot be amended or altered save through a referendum,” the MDC proposed.

On the emotive land issue, the MDC said the 2000 land reform had failed to produce a perfect outcome and, therefore, there must be a rationalisation done through an act of parliament that provides an audit, a maximum number of farms and a cogent form of redistribution based on the principles of need and ability.

“The MDC believes that issues of rationalisation of land must be done through a land commission established through an act of parliament,” said the position paper. “Having established the need for land reform, the constitution should recognise the right of individuals to own land and indeed the existence of private property rights.”

The party said under the new constitution, executive power should reside in the cabinet, the president and the prime minister.

The president, the MDC proposed, should be elected directly by the people and should in turn appoint a prime minister from a party that commands a majority in parliament.

“No person holding the office of the president and prime minister should do so for more than two terms,” says the position paper. “Parliament must have oversight on executive powers.”

The MDC has proposed the retaining of a bicameral parliament with the powers to impeach the president. It said 50% of MPs in both the House of Assembly and Senate should be women.

“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 appointment of candidates,” the party said. “The election of the upper house (Senate) shall be done on a proportional representation based on provinces.”

The party wants the constitution to guarantee the electorate’s right of recall for MPs.

The MDC proposes the establishment –– through acts of parliament –– of independent commissions such as Human and Peoples’ Rights; Gender; the Auditor-General; Independent Electoral, Anti-Corruption; Land; Development; Labour; Children’s Rights; and the Office of the Public Prosecutor.

The party said the institutions should be independent and subject only to the constitution and the law.

“No person or organ of state may interfere with the functioning of these institutions,” the position paper says. “These institutions are accountable to parliament, and must report on their activities and the performance of their functions to parliament at least once a year.”

On elections, the party said the new constitution should guarantee that they are held by an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) whose members would be selected by MPs after interviews, and should have limited terms of office and should enjoy the same protection and independence as judges.

The IEC, proposed the MDC, must be solely responsible for delimitation of constituencies.

“The integrity of the voters’ roll must be protected constitutionally and must be subject to scrutiny by citizens and parliament,” the MDC proposed. “Election dates must be defined in the constitution, for example in the United States every individual knows the dates for presidential and senatorial elections to be the second week of November every fourth year.”

The party also made proposals on how public finance should be handled.

It proposed that there must be an independent financial public protector to oversee government finances and to receive reports about the handling of the funds.

All receipts into the state and all expenditures, the MDC said, must be put in the Consolidated Revenue Fund which would be controlled and governed by parliamentary approval and oversight.

“There must be an independent Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) whose sole mandate is the determination of monetary policy and inflation targeting as defined by treasury,” the party suggested.

“The governor of the RBZ must be a technocrat and financial expert appointed by parliament purely on financial competence, expertise and experience.”

The MDC also said it wanted the new constitution to entrench the independence of the judiciary.

Constantine Chimakure

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