LOCAL non-governmental organisations under the banner of Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) have appealed to the public to reject the recently-gazetted Constitution Amendment Bill, saying it takes the country back to dictatorship.
The much-criticised Amendment Bill proposes changes ranging from scrapping the contentious provision of presidential running mates to the selection of judges and prosecutors and the extension of the women’s quota system.
“The Constitution Amendment Bill of 2019 is one of the biggest threats to civil and political rights in Zimbabwe. Single handedly, the Bill seeks to take Zimbabwe back to the legacy of the Lancaster House Constitution, which had numerous restrictions.
“As CiZC, we believe that it’s high time the citizens of Zimbabwe start being active and protecting their rights by rejecting the Amendment Bill.
“The public needs to come together and defend the Constitution by rejecting all proposed amendments during the public consultations by Parliament or by lodging their concerns to their members of Parliament and also through monitoring parliamentary processes on the amendments,” CiZC spokesperson Marvellous Kumalo said.
Kumalo further said the Constitution was a product by citizens to develop and entrench democratic ethos in Zimbabwe as a solution to decades of crisis.
“In this regard the Constitution represents the views and aspirations of citizens as demonstrated by 94,49 percent of the voters who voted in favour of the Constitution in 2013 and we call upon these voters to defend what they rightfully voted for,” he said. Kumalo indicated that the Bill should be rejected because it was a violation of Sections 17, 56 and 80 of the Constitution, which guarantee gender parity at all levels of leadership through extending the women’s quota system.
“The government should be taking a cue from progressive countries such as South Africa, Senegal and Rwanda where a lot of progress is being made towards gender parity.
“In addition, the government has not undertaken consultations to evaluate the impact of proportional representation seats in genuinely empowering women and increasing their voice in leadership, policy formulation and the development of the country,” he said.
“The Bill returns the Constitution Amendment Bill No.1 of 2017, which was rejected by citizens. It removes the role of citizens in nominating and monitoring the appointments of senior officers of the judiciary and gives the president the power to appoint judges and the prosecutor general will now serve at the mercy of the president.
“This means the Judiciary will no longer be independent. Zimbabwe is at risk of sliding into a de facto one party State where the ruling party has the sole discretion to determine the governance of this country. The gains made through the Constitution of 2013 risk becoming moot if these amendments sail through,” he said.
Khumalo said the removal of the presidential running mate means the party from which the president comes from would now have the sole discretion to choose a successor regardless of whether or not they are popular, thereby limiting democratic participation.
This comes as several organisations, policy makers and political analysts have slammed the government for rushing to amend the Constitution before implementing some of its provisions.