Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number One) sailed through the National Assembly last night in an incident-filled sitting as MDC-T lawmakers protested bitterly during deliberations.
The Bill is now expected to be transmitted to Senate.
The Bill seeks to confer on the President, powers to appoint the Chief Justice, his deputy and Judge president instead of subjecting them to public interviews as what happens in respect of other judges.
- Constitutional Amendment Number 1 set for adoption
- ‘Govt commits to constitutionalism’
- VP unpacks Constitutional Bill
- Constitutional Bill reaches voting stage
Zanu-PF asserted its dominance by overwhelmingly voting in favour of the Bill, despite spirited attempts by MDC-T lawmakers to scuttle the Bill’s passage by raising several points of order.
The Bill got 182 votes against 41 votes which was more than the two thirds threshold required by the Constitution for a Bill to pass.
The Bill required 180 affirmative votes from the 270-member National Assembly. Soon after passage of the Bill, Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa commended legislators for constructive debate.
“I am grateful that the opposition made constructive contributions some of which was incisive and well researched. This is what democracy is all about where those who do not agree are given an opportunity to debate but at the end of the day the majority will have their way,” said VP Mnangagwa.
Deliberations on the Bill lasted more than three hours against earlier expectation of a shorter period given that all that remained was the voting.
Haggling between Zanu-PF and MDC-T started when VP Mnangagwa adjourned debate on the Mid-Term Fiscal Review Statement presented last week by Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa to allow the House to deliberate on the Bill.
MDC-T chief whip Mr Innocent Gonest rose on a point of order to argue that legislators should be allowed to debate on the prudence of the adjournment. Mr Gonese said VP Mnangagwa had no powers in terms of rules to “unilaterally” adjourn debate.
VP Mnangagwa counter argued that as leader of Government business he was empowered to determine which business to prioritise.
National Assembly Speaker Advocate Jacob Mudenda ruled that lawmakers were free to debate the Mid-Term Review upon completion of the Constitutional Amendment Bill.
As voting was about to begin, Mr Gonese rose on another point of order to propose that the Bill should be recommitted for reconsideration arguing that there were some inconsistencies between what VP Mnangagwa had said during the second reading stage and what was captured in the Bill.
He said VP Mnangagwa had indicated that the President should submit three names to the Judicial Services Commission of his nominees, a development which he said was at variance with the Bill.
Adv Mudenda shot down the proposal saying Mr Gonese should have raised those objections at the appropriate stage. At one stage, Norton MP Mr Temba Mliswa castigated the MDC-T for time wasting and implored Adv Mudenda to disregard their protests.
Kuwadzana East MP Mr Nelson Chamisa (MDC-T) was later to rise to push for a secret vote. Adv Mudenda dismissed it saying as presiding officer he had the discretion to decide on the manner on which voting should be handled.
After the voting had been carried out, Mr Gonese rose to argue that there must be physical counting of legislators. MDC-T vice-president Ms Thokozani Khupe concurred arguing that chief whips from either sides should verify numbers of the other party.
VP Mnangagwa said he had no objection to that. After all the processes were completed the Bill was read for the third time signaling its, prompting ululation from Zanu-PF MPs.