19 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Constitution - What the Parties Agreed

ZIMBABWE will introduce the system of presidential running mates after 10 years if the draft Constitution agreed upon by political parties is adopted. The 10 provincial governors would be replaced by provincial chairpersons while the contentious issue of the Attorney-General's Office has been split to create two offices -- the AG's Office and the Prosecuting Authority Office.

Explaining how contentious issues stalling the completion of a new supreme law had been resolved yesterday, Copac co-chairperson Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said there would be no running mates in Zimbabwe for the next 10 years from the date the new Constitution comes into effect.

Principals in the inclusive Government on Thursday resolved all outstanding issues that were stalling the process.

Said Cde Mangwana: "On running mates, the parties resolved that they would only be effected after 10 years from the day the new Constitution comes into place.

"Before those 10 years, if a presidential vacancy arises, the party of the departed president will provide a successor within 90 days. After those 10 years, the issue of running mates will come into play."

Cde Mangwana said provincial chairpersons would replace provincial governors.

"We agreed that there will be no provincial governors with provincial chairpersons coming into effect.

"The provincial chairperson will come from the party with majority seats in that particular province. The chairperson will be elected by the provincial council," he said.

The AG's Office would now have two main offices led by the AG and the Prosecutor General.

"We split it into two and the Attorney-General will be the advisor to Government. He will sit in Cabinet and the office of the prosecuting authority will be led by the Prosecutor General," he said.

To solve the contentious issue of devolution, the principals agreed that they would have a preamble to explain devolution in a way that does not bring divisionism and secession.

"We agreed to have a Reconciliation Commission only for 10 years, but after that, it would be up to the Government of the day to put it through an Act of Parliament if there is a need," he said.

Cde Mangwana said no presidential powers had been whittled.

"The President retains his powers and on the issue we came with a clause that stated that the executive powers of the Republic (of Zimbabwe) vests in the President who, subject to this constitution, shall exercise the same powers through his Cabinet.

"It means the President can exercise power on his own and sometimes does that through his Cabinet. Nothing has been taken away from the President because he is the one who appoints his Cabinet and can hire or fire a Cabinet member anytime," he said.

Addressing journalists in Harare on the contentious issues yesterday, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga concurred with Cde Mangwana.

"We agreed because the President should exercise his power whether you like it or not," Minister Matinenga said.

"He has the power to declare war and peace because a certain country might declare war against us when the Parliament is in recess and there would be nothing to do.

"There should also be checks and balances on what the President does and thus we agreed that there are instances where the President should not act alone but should do so with the approval of a two thirds majority of Parliament."

Minister Matinenga said the new constitution takes into account the "fears, concerns and aspirations" of all the political parties.

"When solving an issue we looked at the fears of the parties and we tried to come up with a situation that did not create losers or winners," he said.

"Coming up with a people-driven constitution is a cliché touted at political rallies because it was obvious that political parties were going to lead the process.

"What is important is that our constitution is primarily grounded on what people said during the outreach programme."

The Constitution-making process that was expected to take about 18 months has taken over three years because of bickering among the political parties.

The latest differences arose after the production of the draft in July when Zanu-PF argued that the document deviated from what people said during the outreach programme as contained in the National Statistical Report.

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