29 January 2013

Zimbabwe: PM's Post to Go

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

THE Prime Minister's Office will be abolished in the new Constitution if the draft that was recently adopted by Principals in the inclusive Government is approved by the electorate. Chapter 5 (Section 8 (1) and (2)) of the draft, which deals with Executive Authority, states that it rests in the Office of the President and is exercised subject to the Constitution through Cabinet.

According to Section 105 (1): "There is a Cabinet consisting of the President, as head of the Cabinet, the Vice Presidents and such Ministers as the President may appoint to the Cabinet."

The President, would be the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces.

The President would be deputised by two Vice Presidents whom he would nominate to stand jointly with him during an election.

Political commentators said the move would do away with unnecessary competition for power and authority in the new Government expected after harmonised elections this year.

Political analyst Mr Goodwine Mureriwa said the draft provisions on executive authority were in tandem with the views gathered from people during the outreach programme.

"It is important that Zimbabwe, being a small country and economy, we do not have a bloated Cabinet," he said.

University of Zimbabwe lecturer Dr Charity Manyeruke said: "The current political environment may have caused the rejection of that office given the discord that we have witnessed between the two offices (that of President and Prime Minister)."

Midlands State University international relations lecturer Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri said while Zimbabwe has had the Office of the Prime Minister in the past, historical circumstances had changed.

The development comes as Government has started compiling new electoral provisions from the draft Constitution to amend the Electoral Act, as the country intensifies preparations for elections.

Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said yesterday that the Electoral Act would be amended immediately after President Mugabe assents to the Constitutional Bill that would pave way for the polls.

This comes as the Sadc facilitation team is expected to meet negotiators to the Global Political Agreement today for an update on the electoral roadmap.

Minister Chinamasa said all electoral processes were running simultaneously with the Constitution-making pro- cess.

"We have started drafting amendments to the Electoral Act so that it is aligned to the Constitution in case of the draft Constitution being adopted at the referendum," he said.

"But these amendments cannot be introduced now, but after the President has assented to the Constitutional Bill. Drafting these amendments now will allow us to immediately amend the Act soon after the Presidential assent."

Minister Chinamasa said the Constitutional Bill would be gazetted and taken to Parliament after 30 days so that legislators could have an appreciation of its contents.

He said once the President proclaims the date for the referendum, it would then be easy to know when the Constitution-making process would come to a close.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said they wanted the Constitution-making process and other provisions to the roadmap expedited.

"The Ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs should be looking at laws that need to be changed to align them to the new constitution, especially electoral laws because we are anticipating that the new constitution will be adopted," he said.

"It is their role to start working on those laws that conform to the draft so that they can be incorporated once the draft is assented to.

"We want to do this as quickly as possible, but the challenge now is that I cannot identify the referendum date since it has not yet been proclaimed."

The Sadc facilitation team's visit today follows the breakthrough in the constitution making process by the principals to the GPA about a fortnight ago.

The team is expected to jointly meet negotiators to the GPA.

"They are coming to be briefed first hand information from the horse's mouth on the developments that have taken place than to read in the newspapers only," said Minister Chinamasa.

"There is going to be a joint meeting between the facilitation team and ourselves as a team of negotiators. They also want to know the prospects ahead."

MDC negotiator Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi Mushonga said it was the Sadc that requested the meeting.

"They requested a meeting with us tomorrow (today) but we don't know what is on the agenda since they are the ones who requested the meeting," she said.

"I assume that they may want to know where we are in terms of the election roadmap now that the draft constitution has been adopted by the parties.

"I also assume that they want to hear it from the parties themselves if they have really resolved the differences considering that the last time they came we had issues with the draft."

Parties in the inclusive Government have already endorsed the draft constitution after resolving some of the sticky issues that almost derailed the process.

Zanu-PF had raised some concerns with some of the contents in the draft that was produced by Copac.

Some of the issues have since been addressed in the final draft and all the parties are in agreement on the amendments.

The Zanu-PF Politburo last week endorsed the draft, while MDC formations had already endorsed it in its original state.

Copac is expected to present the draft in Parliament next week when it resumes sitting.

The draft will then be taken to a referendum sometime in March or April.

If Zimbabweans approve the draft, Minister Matinenga would steer the Constitutional Bill in Parliament for formal adoption since legislators cannot alter the contents.

This is because the majority of Zimbabwe whom the Parliamentarians represent would have voted.

The Bill will then be referred to President Mugabe for his assent.

After gazetting of the Act, electoral provisions would then be incorporated into the Electoral Act.

It is at that stage that the President can make a proclamation of when the harmonised polls would be held.

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