Constitutional amendment gives Zimbabwean president sweeping powers

Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa

A Constitutional amendment passed by the National Assembly Tuesday gives Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa sweeping powers which include retaining the authority to appoint Vice Presidents and promoting judges to superior courts.

At least 191 Members of Parliament — mainly from the ruling ZANU-PF party — voted in favor of the amendment tabled by Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, while 22 others from the opposition MDC voted against it, the government-controlled Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.

Constitutional Amendment Bill (No 2) will be submitted for approval at the Senate where, because of the ruling party’s commanding two-thirds majority, it is expected to sail through with little opposition before Mnangagwa giving his assent to make it into law.

Presidential spokesperson George Charamba, writing on Twitter, said the ruling party had always been opposed to the running mate clause since it created two centers of power. When the current Constitution was passed in 2013, it had been agreed that the clause would be parked for 10 years.

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Under the proposed amendment, Mnangagwa will be able to extend the age limit of judges by another five years from the current 70 at which they are supposed to retire. The judges will also be no longer required to produce annual medical certificates of fitness to warrant extensions.

While judges are currently promoted after public interviews with the Judicial Service Commission recommending names from which the President picks appointees, Mnangagwa will now promote them as he sees fit while public interviews will only be done at entry-level.

The bill also extends the women’s 60 seats quota in the National Assembly after it is due to expire in 2023 and gives impetus to the government’s devolution agenda. Ziyambi said the amendment would also provide a youth quota of 10 seats in the National Assembly.