Senate gives Constitutional Bill thumbs up
The second amendment to the Constitution sailed through Senate yesterday, easily making the two thirds majority with a 65-10 vote and with a group of MDC-T senators joining the Zanu-PF senators and the traditional leaders.
During the Committee Stage last week 19 senators, all from the MDC-T, voted against a single clause that would allow High Court and Supreme Court judges to be promoted without having to go through a second public hearing.
The 19 approved all the other measures.
It appears that nine of this group then decided that their support for the raft of other measures outweighed their dislike of one clause, and so having registered their dislike in the Committee Stage on that one item voted for the package of amendments as a whole in the Third Reading.
MDC-T leader Sen Douglas Mwonzora was more precise. He said the women senators from his party liked the extension of the process for extra women MPs more than they disliked the judge clause.
The provision of these extra seats reserved for women and elected on party lists for the life of two more Parliaments, was due to expire before the next election. It was put in place as a temporary measure to cover the period until cultural shifts would produce gender balance.
Most MPs and senators now believe another decade of the measure is required before any change can be contemplated.
Gender equality is achieved in the Senate, outside the block of traditional chiefs, by insisting that parties on their party lists alternate candidates by gender.
After Senate Deputy President Mike Nyambuya announced the results saying they satisfied the two thirds Constitutional requirement, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi described the passage of the Bill as historic while Sen Mwonzora said he would accept the result.
Besides extending the life of the extra women’s seats in the National Assembly and removing the need for judges to compete in public when seeking promotion, the amendment Bill adds 10 specially elected youth MPs and retains the present system of a President appointing the vice-presidents rather than allow a clause that would have come active at the next election whereby the President and two vice-presidents would stand together on a single ticket at the election.
The Bill extends tenure of medically fit judges to 75 years and gives impetus to Government’s devolution agenda by separating MPs and senators from the provincial councils.
Addressing Senate soon after the passage of the Bill, Minister Ziyambi said: “I want to thank Honourable Senators for this historic occasion in the sense that we debated together, historic in that we did a good job.”
He said the amendments were as a result of the realisation that the 2013 Constitution had some errors that needed to be attended to.
“I am also elated that we can now plan for the 2023 elections both as political parties and as Government.
“We can now pursue the devolution agenda as enunciated by His Excellency President Mnangagwa,” said Minister Ziyambi.
In an interview, Sen Mwonzora said his party accepted the result but would push for negotiations.
“When you look at the vote that has happened, the majority of the women including those from the MDC-T voted for the Bill. It is clear that they were voting for the women’s quota.
“It is not a typical Bill that a leader of a political party would whip people because doing so would be like whipping them against their gender.
“Having said that, we say this is a vote and the majority prevailed and to that extent, we accept the result with our disappointment,” he said.
He said while they agreed with several issues in the Bill such as the women and youth quotas, they were not happy with the removal of the running mates clause and the extension of judges’ tenure.