Constitution Amendment (No.2) Bill benefits outweigh negatives : Mwonzora

The MDC-T led by Douglas Mwonzora claimed it had to support the Constitutional Amendment (No.2) Bill as rejecting it would have meant discarding other clauses such as devolution, the women’s and youth quota, which they supported.

MDCT legislators recently voted alongside their Zanu-PF counterparts for the passage of the controversial bill in the National Assembly, raising the ire of people who criticised the opposition party for amending their views that were crafted in the 2013 constitution.

The Bill will next week be taken to the upper House and after sailing through it will then be taken to the President who will sign it into law.

The MDC-T leader insists the party had to do a cost-benefit analysis, where they discovered that positives of the Constitutional Amendment (No.2) Bill outweighed the negatives.

“In the absence of a clear 50/50 provision the women’s quota is the next best thing. We therefore support women’s representation in Parliament. We support the Youth quota, devolution, these are things that we have supported as the MDC since our formation as a party. And these are things that we are not about to drop,” he said.

Mwonzora said MDC-T was aware that by rejecting the bill, they would throw away good provisions.

“If you are accepting you accept everything. In the case of the MDC-T, if we rejected it we would be rejecting the running mate clause, judges’ clauses as well as devolution, women’s and youth quota,” he said.

The MDC-T leader said the party had voiced its concerns about the objectionable clauses, which the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs had to remove from the Bill.

He said maintaining the running mate clause would allow for smooth transition of power in the event of a president leaving office for whatever reason.

The party leader also said he was not persuaded by the argument made to scrap the compulsory process of interviews for the judges of the Supreme and the Constitutional Courts.

“We suggested within the Senate, that if they are so much afraid of the humiliation of the judges during public interviews, they could still privately interview or can be interviewed by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders of Parliament, just like in the American system where the nominee for judge the Chief Justice is brought before a legislative assembly. The logic given by the Minister is that they didn’t feel it was necessary for the judges to be humiliated by the process of interview,” he said.

The MDC-T leader said they were against the extension of judges’ tenure adding if there is need to amend that clause, it should only be done via referendum.

“In terms of clause 328, again, where the minister wants to amend a constitution, that the bill, the executive bill, must be published by the speaker for a period of 90 days. Now, when the bill was published by the Minister, that clause was not there. That clause was only smuggled into the National Assembly and we find that extremely objectionable,” he said.

 Mwonzora said their strategy as MDC-T was to dialogue to have these objectionable clauses removed, adding they had already started talks with the government and the relevant minister.

“We appeal to Zanu-PF to scrap those offending clauses and we make this call as patriotic Zimbabweans. What is wrong is wrong. What is right is right. What is certainly right and which we make no apology about is the women’s and youth quota and devolution. What is wrong is the amendment to the running mate clause. That is very wrong,” Mwonzora said.

“We hope the minister is going to take us seriously. If he doesn’t take us seriously I will leave you with a quote from Lenin in his article Guerrilla Warfare, where he said, ‘there is no prescribed method of struggle every method would depend on the circumstances that exist in that point in time.’”

Mwonzora noted that as leader of the MDC-T he was concerned by the level of negativity that continued coming from civil society and some members from other political parties, denigrating senators and legislators.

“At this juncture, these senators deserve your support. They deserve the people’s support as they go into this very important stage. This is no stage to score cheap political points. This is an important national stage,” he said.

“Therefore, we are surprised that some people want to play politics denigrating the senators, denigrating the women MPs for having acted in the most natural of manners. So we appeal to all stakeholders to support the MPs as they go into this final phase. This is the period in which we expect people to lobby the MDC caucus and give constructive ideas.”

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