There is no going back on the constitutional amendment process and any organisation with a view on how to improve the supreme law should do so within the context of ongoing consultative processes, a Cabinet Minister has said.
Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi said the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) had no authority to stop the Government from amending the Constitution.
He said the forum was free to make representations about its views on the Constitutional Amendment Bill that was gazetted in January.
Minister Ziyambi made the remarks in response to calls by Polad, led by Professor Lovemore Madhuku, imploring the Government to withdraw the Bill.
Prof Madhuku said the proposed amendments fell short of what the Constitution should address.
He used various platforms to say Polad had adopted a position that the Constitutional Amendment Bill should be withdrawn and fresh consultations begin.
Prof Madhuku had also argued that the current Constitution-making process embarked upon by the Government was not “people-driven”.
However, Minister Ziyambi said such suggestions were misdirected.
“The current Constitution was a product of compromise,” he said. “Who is the people that Prof Madhuku is referring to? Laws are made by parliamentarians who are the representatives of the people.
“With respect to a Constitution, it is gazetted and people are given three months to allow any person or institution to give input should he or she so wish before it can be debated in Parliament.
“Polad is not a statutory instrument. It is a platform for dialogue which like any other person or institution should submit its views about the Bill and it will be up to Parliament to take it up. So, suggestions to withdraw the Bill are misdirected.”
Minister Ziyambi said Zanu PF carries the mandate of the people.
“A Government is formed through a political party that would have won an election,” he said.
“A political party represents the people and in this case Zanu PF won elections and it carries the mandate of the people, so any suggestion that the current process is not people-driven is misplaced.”
Prof Madhuku criticised the proposed clause in the Bill which seeks to extend the retirement age of Supreme Court and Constitutional Court judges from 70 to 75 years.
Minister Ziyambi said there was need to differentiate between retirement age and term limits for office bearers or individuals.
“To start with, who said that the proposed clause would benefit the present judges?” he said.
“His argument is not founded on law and he knows it. Judges have no term limits like independent commissions and the office of the President where one cannot be allowed to go beyond given term limits.
“Independent commissions and the office of the President have term limits where they can only serve for a maximum of two terms and that does not apply to judges, they have retirement ages. So, Prof Madhuku is lost on both fronts.”
On the appointment of judges, Minister Ziyambi said the President has always been the appointing authority.
“The President has a dual role,” he said. “He is Head of State and Government. When he appoints judges, he does so as head of Government.
“All what we are saying is, there is no need to interview sitting judges, except those individuals coming from outside the bench.”
Minister Ziyambi accused Prof Madhuku of double standards after he campaigned for the rejection of the current Constitution in the run-up to a referendum, only to turn around to push for its retention.