Constitutional Amendments: POLAD deals Vice President General Constantino Chiwenga a massive blow

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POLITICAL Actors Dialogue (Polad) members have endorsed the proposed constitutional amendments that were gazetted recently but appealed to Government not to fast-track the process.

Polad consists of fringe political parties that participated in the 2018 harmonised elections, minus the people's party, the MDC Alliance which has chosen to stay away.

Polad’s subcommittee on governance and legislative reforms met in Bulawayo yesterday to deliberate on the proposed constitutional amendments.

Constitutional lawyer and National Constitutional Assembly president, Professor Lovemore Madhuku chairs the subcommittee.

The deliberations by the members touched on several clauses that include the proposed removal of the Presidential running mate clause, increase in the number of non-constituency MPs who can be appointed Cabinet ministers and extension of the women’s quota beyond 2023 elections.

Polad members said in principle they agree that the Constitution should be amended with respect to identified clauses, although some areas need fine-tuning.

Prof Madhuku said the Presidential running mate clause was dangerous as it could lead to the running mate plotting against a sitting President for political expediency.

“There were people who were feeling that clause is a dangerous clause as a person who is a running mate and waiting to become President may actually harm the existing President. It creates instability, because if you know that I’m going to be the next President and it’s guaranteed by the Constitution it tends to create problems,” said Prof Madhuku.

He said Parliament should be the one which elects an individual to succeed a President in case the incumbent dies or resigns as opposed to the existing system where a political party selects who should be seconded to the top post.

The 2013 Constitution, through Section 92, has a 10-year transitional clause that provides for the joint election of the President and two running mates selected by the Presidential candidate.

In the event of a sitting President’s death, resignation or removal, the first Vice President, according to the current Constitution, will assume office until the expiry of the former President’s term.

However, the removal of the running mate clause will allow a President-elect to appoint his deputies.

The proposed Bill also makes the highly ambitious General Chiwenga, an unlikely automatic choice for vice president in the 2023 elections. If passed, Mnangagwa will have discretionary powers to appoint vice presidents of his choice.

According to political analysts, the whole plot is an attempt to weaken a determined Chiwenga, seen as eyeing the country’s most coveted job.

Political analysts say the removal of the clause from the Constitution would allow Mnangagwa tame the former military boss’s perceived presidential ambitions.

Zanu PF hawks linked to Mnangagwa also feel the scrapping of the clause will help prevent the creation of parallel centres of power. The faction also claims the concept is not in terms of international best practice.

To weaken Chiwenga’s base and presidential ambitions, Mnangagwa has also been seen on a drive to remove senior officials in both government and Zanu PF, who are considered to be close to Chiwenga, from positions of authority.

Last year, the President retired four army generals who were perceived to be closer to their former boss and appointed them to ambassadorial positions abroad where they are less likely to play any part in the subtle but bruising power battles obtaining.

The retired Major Generals and now ambassadors are; Martin Chedondo, Douglas Nyikayaramba, Anselem Sanyatwe and retired Air Vice-Marshal Shebba Shumbayaonda.

Another former army general, Engelbert Rugeje, was also lured from the barracks and given the influential job of being Zanu PF national commissar.

Before he could fully enjoy the warmth of the seat, he was removed and replaced with a Mnangagwa sympathiser, Victor Matemadanda after only a year at the helm.

Critics say the retired army bosses, being one time subordinates to Chiwenga, were more likely to place their allegiances to their former commander as opposed to Mnangagwa, a civilian.

MDC-T Bulawayo Proportional Representation MP Mrs Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the subcommittee’s technical team also supports the proposal to increase the number of non-elected Cabinet ministers.

She said while the proposed constitutional amendments give the President the power to appoint seven unelected individuals into Cabinet instead of five as is the case now, they suggested that the number be increased to eight or more.

Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the proposed Constitutional changes should be biased towards the inclusion of women and the youth ministers.

“We are just agreeing in principle but we will get good drafters who will draft it in a manner that the aspect of young people would be included and that it is not just aspirational but is actually in the context that they are included. In summary, we agree but we want gender representation and we want youth representation,” she said.

During the deliberations some members said there should be a cap on the number of people who will constitute the Cabinet.

Mrs Misihairabwi-Mushonga said Polad also agree that the women’s quota system must be extended beyond 2023.

She said in extending the women’s quota system, Government should consider including women who belong to independent parties as opposed to the existing system where they are selected from political parties.

— Chronicle/ NewZimbabwe


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