PARLIAMENT resumes sitting today amid high expectations that President Robert Mugabe’s impeachment would be the main agenda as Zanu PF and MDC-T legislators have ganged up to end his 37-year-long rule in dramatic style.
This also comes amid unconfirmed reports that in an attempt to prolong his stay in office, Mugabe had attempted to dissolve Parliament or to stop the House from sitting in order to stall his impeachment.
A draft copy of the proposed Zanu PF impeachment motion gleaned by NewsDay yesterday shows that the party legislators cited Mugabe’s disrespect for the rule of law and political instability triggered by his indiscriminate and continuous dismissal of members of his Cabinet, including two Vice-Presidents (Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa) in the past four years, as some of the reasons why they felt he was no longer suitable to continue in office.
The ruling Zanu PF party also cited Mugabe’s failure to resuscitate the economy, combat corruption and abrogation of his constitutional mandate to his wife, First Lady Grace, as grounds enough to cause his impeachment.
Legal think-tank Veritas said Mugabe had no right to stop Parliament from sitting as the current Constitution (section 145) only allows him to determine the first sitting of Parliament only after a general election. Section 146 of the Constitution stipulates that each House of Parliament determines its sitting times and duration.
Veritas said Parliament can pass a vote of no confidence on Mugabe where both Houses of Parliament sit together to pass it in terms of section 109 of the Constitution.
“The vote would not necessarily result in the President leaving office because the President would have two options under section 109 (4) of the Constitution, that is, to remove all ministers and deputy ministers from office and appoint new ones in their place, or to dissolve Parliament and call a general election within 90 days.”
They said the Constitution does not allow Zanu PF party to recall the President, and therefore the only way now is for Parliament to impeach him, adding that the procedure for impeachment was stipulated in section 97 of the Constitution in a three-stage process.
“The National Assembly and the Senate sits and resolves by two-thirds majority of their total membership (350) to remove him from office on the grounds of serious misconduct, failure to obey, uphold or defend the Constitution, wilful violation of the Constitution, and inability to perform his duties because of physical or mental incapacity.”
After passing the impeachment resolution, Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee then appoints a nine-member committee of senators and members of the National Assembly to investigate the removal of the President.
MDC Alliance committee member Jacob Mafume said after the nine-member select committee is appointed, they will look at Mugabe’s alleged offences, but he will be given an opportunity to respond to the allegations against him (section 69 of the Constitution).
He said there was no clear timeline on how long Parliament will take to complete the impeachment proceedings, but it was possible to do so in a single sitting of Parliament as long as two-thirds majority of both Houses (350) vote for impeachment.
University of Zimbabwe constitutional law lecturer Greg Linington said if Mugabe resigns of his own volition, then it means Vice-President Phelekezela Mphoko becomes President.
“However, with the current situation Zanu PF can also decide to impeach Mphoko, but since Mphoko is out of the country it means he is not in a position to act, and the Constitution stipulates that Cabinet must then assign a minister to act as President,” Linington said.
Former Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said: “We are in a messy situation. First of all, impeachment is not a walk in the park. All these Zanu PF changes can be challenged in court. The legal route of removing Mugabe is going to be long and arduous, but not impossible,” Mutambara said.