Constitutional Amendment Bill sails through Senate
Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number One) now awaits Presidential assent after it sailed through Senate yesterday as Zanu-PF continued to flex its political muscle.
The Bill got 53 affirmative votes from Zanu-PF senators and traditional leaders, a figure that constitutes two-thirds majority of total membership of the Upper House, while 19 Senators from MDC-T voted against it.
The figure was enough to allow the third reading of the Bill to signal its passage.
Senate President Cde Edna Madzongwe told Senators that the total membership of the Upper House was 79 following the death of Matabeleland North Senator Alphina Juba (MDC-T).
She said the Bill required at least 52,6 affirmative votes for it to sail through.
“The number of the affirmative votes is not less two thirds of the total membership of Senate and I therefore declare that the final vote of the Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number 1 HB 1A 2017) to have been in accordance with Section 328(5) of the Constitution,” said Cde Madzongwe.
Section 328(5) reads as follows: “A Constitutional Bill must be passed at its last reading in the National Assembly and the Senate, by the affirmative votes of two thirds of the membership of each House.”
Vice-President Emerson Mnangagwa, who also oversees the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, commended all Senators for their contribution on the Bill.
“I thank those whose contributions were against the Bill and those who were in support of the Bill. At the end of the day in our democracy, we do not expect everyone to agree with the passage of the Bill, but the majority will always prevail,” said VP Mnangagwa, who steered the Bill during debate. He said it was critical to realise that a Constitution was not cast in stone, but could be amended to suit the political, economic and social interests of the Government, which is the repository of the people’s will.
“We are implementing the desire of the people. Of course we had expected to exceed two thirds, but there are people outside the country. This is the first time we have amended our Constitution and it is a landmark in our history,” said VP Mnangagwa to wild applause from the floor.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill (Number One) seeks to confer the President powers to appoint Chief Justice, his deputy and High Court Judge President after consultation with the Judicial Service Commission. It removes the current provisions in which the said judicial officers are subjected to a public interview by JSC, who in most cases are their juniors.
The Bill also seeks to subordinate Labour Court and Administrative Court judges to the High Court. The National Assembly passed the Bill last week in an incident-filled sitting as MDC-T lawmakers launched several protests during deliberations.