Civic Organisations petition Zim parliament over constitutional amendments

Special correspondent

ZIMBABWE- Civic organisation in the country have petitioned the parliament over proposed amendments to the country’s constitution which is only four years old.

The civic organisation under Zimbabwe Crisis Coalition have questioned the logic behind changing the newly established constitution to allow president Robert Mugabe to handpick the country’s chief justice.

Under the current new constitution a chief justice is chosen following public interviews by the country’s Judicial Service Commission,  but the government through the ministry of justice wants Mugabe to have powers to handpick the senior judge.

Although  Mugabe has already  nominated justice Luke Malaba as chief justice vice president Emmerson Munangagwa who doubles as justice minister still wants the public interviews to be scrapped and give Mugabe sweeping powers to nominate the chief justice.

Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe chairman responsible for advocacy Maverlous Khumalo said civic organisation have petitioned parliament not to allow the bill that will pave way for the changes to sail through.

“The issue of allowing a president to handpick a chief justice is very dangerous because it does not conform to the dictates of separation of powers,”said Khumalo.

“As civic organisations we also feel that since we are approaching elections next year if Mugabe picks his right hand man it will mean election related court challenges will not be handled fairly,”added Khumalo.

“We have handed the petition to parliament but we are surprised with the time they are taking to give us a response,”added Khumalo.

However Munangagwa has already told parliament that the constitutional amendment bill number one only seeks to do away with public interviews to allow the president to handpick the senior judge.

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At a meeting attended by civic organisations in Masvingo a city in southern Zimbabwe yesterday delegates expressed concern as to why government was rushing to amend a constitution which is only four years old.

“Changing the constitution doing away with what people said during the outreach programmes to write our constitution is not only ill-advised but selfish,”said Ms Mavis Mukuva .

“We have several laws that need to be aligned with the constitution and therefore it’s not the right time and unwise to rush to have a constitutional change,”she added.

Zimbabwe adopted a new constitution in 2013 and several laws have not yet been aligned with the new supreme law of the land.

However the Zanu PF led government wants the constitution to be amended for the first time since its adoption hence the name “constitutional amendment bill number one”

The ruling Zanu PF party has two-thirds majority in parliament needed to come up with a constitutional amendment but there have been division  as factional fighting continue to dog the party.

Deep rooted factionalism has plunged the ruling party into chaos as the succession issue remains unresolved.

Mugabe who has been in power since 1980 is now 93 years old and party bigwigs are wrestling to succeed the aged leader.

Two distinct factions have since emerged in Zanu Pf with one supporting vice president Munangagwa who is tipped to take over from Mugabe while the other supports the first lady Grace who is also tipped to take over from her husband