1 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Term Limits for Permanent Secretaries

Permanent secretaries in Government ministries will serve for a maximum of two terms if the final draft Constitution agreed to by governing parties is passed into law. The draft constitution gives the mandate of appointing permanent secretaries to the President in consultation with the civil service commission.

Chapter 10, Section 205 of the draft Constitution says: "Permanent Secretaries of Ministries are appointed by the President after consultation with the Civil Service Commission.

"The term of office of a Permanent Secretary is a period of up to five years, and is renewable once only subject to competence, performance and delivery."

Political observers yesterday expressed mixed feelings to the provision.

A lawyer, Mr Jonathan Samukange of Venturas and Samukange law practice said it was improper for Government to introduce a law that sought to curtail civil servants' job.

"Permanent secretaries are career civil servants so they can't be given term limits," said Mr Samukange.

"For there to be continuity in Government there is need to have these career civil servants in place.

"I don't understand why they put those term limits."

Constitutional Law lecturer at the University of Zimbabwe Mr Greg Linington said he supported a system where people are subjected to term limits so that they can deliver.

He said the term limits for permanent secretaries would be unique to Zimbabwe.

"In principle I like that idea of term limits for there to be change but normally permanent secretaries are civil servants who serve without term limits. I don't know of a country where permanent secretaries are given term limits," said Mr Linington.

Media and Society Studies lecturer at the Midlands State University Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri said term limits were a common feature in most institutions.

"Nothing is unusual about this provision because it makes people work hard and deliver," he said.

"However, it means you have to increase their perks so that they can be consumerate with their indefinate tenure.

"It is strategic to have term limits for people so that there can be results-based management. Term limits will make people achieve what they would have set to achieve because if its open, people tend to become complacent."

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