Rights groups rap constitution violation

BY SILAS NKALA

RIGHTS groups this week joined the growing condemnation against violation of the Constitution under President Emmerson Mangagwa, saying this significantly reversed democratic gains.

With the 2013 Constitution now eight years old, Church and Civic Society Joint Forum (CCJF) national chairperson Anglistone Sibanda said there was nothing to celebrate due to failed implementation.

“The document was passed into law, but what has always been a challenge is the culture of constitutionalism. We continue to see a violation of the very same constitution. We recently saw it being battered,” Sibanda said.

“In eight years we have already made two amendments and this does not go well with democratic values. Constitutionalism is a value that underpins democracy and having a good document without implementation is useless.”

Ibhetshu likaZulu secretary-general Mbuso Fuzwayo said Zanu PF was never sincere and would undo progressive clauses and implement all that will entrench their rule.

“They don’t want accountability and will go an extra mile even to defend impunity; that’s Zanu PF we have always known. What people must not forget is that Emmerson Mnangagwa was the leader of the Zanu PF team in the constitution-making process and now he leads the reversal of the peoples victories,” he said.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Right (ZLHR) said the government should respect the will of the people by implementing all provisions and refrain from passing amendments that undermine the founding values of Zimbabwe’s constitutional democracy.

“The constitution came into force eight years ago on May 22, 2013, but it has not yet been fully implemented. The failure to give effect to all of the provisions of the constitution amounts to a flagrant disregard of the wishes of the public that are embodied in the constitution,” ZLHR said.

“The constitution was emphatically endorsed by the public through a referendum in 2013. As the supreme law of the nation, the constitution binds the state and requires it to give effect to all of its provisions.”

ZLHR said the recently passed Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.2) Act, 2021 introduced changes that significantly weakened the independence of the judiciary, participatory democracy and the separation of powers.

“ZLHR is greatly concerned by the removal of public interviews from the selection process of judges of the higher courts and the introduction of a clause which allows the President to extend the tenure of Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges beyond the set retirement age of 70 years,” ZLHR said.

ZLHR noted that the removal of the running-mates clause restricts participatory democracy, thereby prohibiting the public’s ability to vote for a vice-president as a running mate.

“These amendments, among others that were introduced by the amendment, concentrate powers in the executive, thereby violating the principle of separation of powers,” ZLHR said.

Mnangagwa recently extended the tenure of the former Chief Justice Luke Malaba, in contravention of section 328 (7) of the Constitution, a move that had been quashed by the courts.

Habakkuk Trust chief executive officer Dumisani Nkomo said the constitution was supreme but the government was amending the key document “as if it is written in pencil”.

“What is more important is aligning laws with the constitution, for example, Chapter 14 on devolution and other pieces of legislation such as the Mines and Minerals Act. Sadly, the constitution was supposed to be available to all Zimbabweans, but eight years later, this has not been done. The 2013 Constitution was a very good start, but Amendment No. 2 is taking us backward,” Nkomo said.

Human rights activist Effie Ncube said there is no link between what the constitution provides for and what is obtaining in the country.

“As long as Zanu PF is in power, the constitution will never be implemented,” he said.