What’s a Mere Constitution to One Appointed by God to Govern?


By Derek Matyszak

What is a mere constitution for one appointed by God to govern?

The transcript of the interview granted by Mugabe to the national broadcaster to mark his 91st birthday makes for depressing reading.

ZANU PF’s 6th National People Congress purported to ratify various amendments to the party constitution, including removing a requirement that one of the two Vice-Presidents be a woman. Previously the constitution established a Presidium of four as part of the Central Committee, providing for a President and First Secretary, a National Chairman and stating that there must be

“two Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries one of whom shall be a woman ….elected by Congress directly upon nomination by at least six (6) Provincial Co-ordinating Committees. After the amendment, the same clause was changed to read that there must be:

Two (2) Vice Presidents and Second Secretaries appointed in accordance with the Unity Accord by the President for their skill, experience, probity, integrity and commitment to the party ideology, values, principles and policies.

When asked about this change during the birthday interview President Mugabe responded:

Ah, have we removed it? I do not think we have removed it. We just ignored it for now….

This response is remarkable for several reasons. Firstly, despite having emphatically stated that he remains in charge of the party, Mugabe appears unaware of this important change to the party constitution by his supposed underlings. The second point of note is the unabashed admission by Mugabe of believing himself entitled to simply ignore the rules of the party as set out in its constitution. Since it is Mugabe, and Mugabe alone, who appoints the Vice-Presidents, the “we” who claimed to ignore the constitution is solely Mugabe. Mugabe had also chosen, immediately after the Congress, to ignore the requirement, set out in the same section, section 32, that a National Chairman must be appointed. The requirement in the ZANU PF Constitution that “women shall constitute at least one third of the total membership of the principal organs of the Party…” never seems to have been applied. Yet as part of the same response to the question about the amendment, in almost the same breath, Mugabe also stated:

…you must be a disciplinarian, obedient to the rules of the party. A good disciplinarian is the one who first applies discipline to himself or herself. You apply it to oneself you don’t go against the rules of the party. You follow the rules of the party….

This cameo encapsulates Mugabe’s style of governance – the delegation of duties to his underlings, but with little attention paid thereafter to how those duties are carried out or supervision. His minions are left to their own devices. And the belief that rules, procedures and constitutional requirements, which somehow do not apply to him, must be scrupulously followed by others, when he so demands. No restriction on doing what he deems expedient is even conceived of.

As with ZANU PF, so with the country….

THE ELECTION DATE CIRCUS, ACT II?


In several articles recently posted by RAU, it was noted that the President cannot comply with both the Electoral Law as it currently stands, and with the Constitutional Court ruling that elections be held by 31st July, 2013. Today’s (10.06.13) Herald has Professor Madhuku stating in effect “No problem. Mugabe can just use the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act to alter all the necessary provisions of the Electoral Act to enable him to meet the deadline”.

This suggestion gives rise to several deep ironies. It was Madhuku himself who is supposed to have hailed the Concourt ruling on the ground it would be undemocratic for the President to “rule by decree” (i.e. use the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act) without Parliament to operate as a check on his power. So now, in order to meet the Concourt deadline, it is suggested that the President unilaterally, without the consent of the other major parties, and without the oversight of Parliament alter the law governing an election in which he is a candidate. The law is thus to be changed to cater for an ah hoc court order issued due to a breach of the Constitution by the President. Any problems with the democratic nature of that, Professor Madhuku?

The second irony is that the new Constitution specifically includes a provision that once election dates are announced the electoral laws cannot be changed. This provision was undoubtedly inserted to prevent that which had happened before, when the President took advantage of the fact that Parliament was dissolved to issue a decree reinserting a provision into the Electoral Act which Parliament had but a few months before removed – one which allowed police officers into polling stations.

The Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act provides that any laws made by the President in term of this Act must be laid before Parliament within eight days, whereupon Parliament may repeal or amend the law, or leave it as is.

However, the question will arise then as to whether this provision will apply if the election dates have been announced. Our Concourt may well hold that the provision in the Constitution that the electoral law cannot be changed overrides this provision of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act. The irony then is that a provision designed to prevent the President from altering electoral law, has in fact strengthened his power to do so, as once the President has unilaterally made the law and announced the dates, it cannot be changed by Parliament. Furthermore, while the whole reasoning behind the Concourt deadline is that rule by the President without Parliament is undesirable, the effect is, according to Madhuku, to compel him to do precisely that.

However, it may be that on a correct interpretation of the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act and the new Constitution this situation will not arise.

To comply with the Concourt ruling the President will have to alter provisions of the Electoral Act specifically agreed between the main political parties and which formed part of the 2007 amendments to the Act – that is, that voter registration must end 24 hours before the nomination court sits. It is this provision which prevents the President from complying with the 30 day registration period in the Constitution and the Concourt order.

However, The Act does not allow the President tomake a law “providing for any … matter or thing which the Constitution requires to be provided for by, rather than in terms of, an Act”. Voter registration is provided for by the new Constitution and section 157(1)(b) is to this effect:

157(1)  An Act of Parliament must provide for the conduct of elections and referendums to which this Constitution applies, and in particular for the following matters…

The “matters” then listed include proportional representation, the election of persons with disabilities, the election of provincial and metropolitan councils and the registration of voters.

So it is an Act of Parliament that must provide for this, and not a Presidential decree.

If there is to be compliance with the law, it seems that the President will have to ask the Concourt for a postponement, which he proved very good at during the by-election saga. The problem for the President is that if he is able to ask for a postponement to another date, this will then make it clear that the 31st July, 2013 is not carved in stone by the law, as ZANU PF would like the populace to believe.

Skewed Priorities


parisdaglion.wordpress.com

What weighs heavy on our balance as a nation? President Mugabe last week officially opened the Military Training Academy. $98 million is what it cost to build the Academy.  The money was provided by the Chinese as a loan repayable over the next 13 years from the diamonds which the Chinese are currently mining in Zimbabwe. With the current state of the health care system, socio economic state, the educational system in Zimbabwe and the poverty prevalence it’s worrying that we are spending so much of our resources in “suiting up for war”. $98 million is a significant amount of money to spend on military training. Zimbabwe is marred by bad record of health care , water provision and other serious issues and what is $98m compared to just one year of diamond mining? The areas we seem to be concerned about developing say nothing about peace and forgiveness and nothing about moving forward because , try as we may to move from our painful past of violence we seem to be preparing for a future filled with more of it.

During the President’s speech he allegedly said that Zimbabwe was inspired to build such an institution by “the West’s hate filled tactics” and thus saw the need to “beef up its national defenses”. The President did not actually give any factual evidence of foreign invasion and may actually never do so. Educating the people of Zimbabwe is very important but where will this Military knowledge be used? Will it help Zimbabwe build bridges of peace into the future or will it turn into a virus in idle minds that will drive the informed and trained to violence against the civilians? Surely the resources could have been put to a much better use. It may be very necessary to prepare for defending the country but at the moment we are sitting on a health time-bomb these issues should be top on our list of priorities.