By Joel Mandaza
The report by the Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee on the Constitution Amendment Bill No.2, made for a curious reading.
It betrayed disappointment, as if there was an outcome that did not come to pass.
With two thirds in Parliament Zanu PF thought changing the constitution to give themselves further grip on power, would be a walk in the park.
Parliament arranged for urgent public hearings during COVI-19, a position which was questioned by stakeholders.
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) and Heal Zimbabwe (HZ) were among the organisations that argued against these fast track hearings.
They said the hearings were not going to capture public opinion thoroughly as we are in the middle of a global health crisis.
ZCTU secretary general Japhet Moyo was quoted in the media saying;
“We believe this is a deliberate move by the government to sideline a majority of people from meaningfully contributing to the Bill.”
However, far from what Zanu PF and proponents of constitutional change had envisioned the public hearings were not an easy walk in the park.
The people were clear that there are some provisions they do not agree with.
One such provision is that of running mates.
In the Bill, the proposed amendment seeks to remove the running mate concept where a Vice President is voted for.
The current administration has been seeking to abolish the clause the committee report noted that Zimbabweans were not entertaining that talk.
“The majority of the submissions received pointed towards a desire to maintain the system of running mates. People were of the firm and considered view that the running mates system that the proposed amendments seek to avoid creates certainty in presidential succession and is desirable to avoid the possibility of a power vacuum where the President leaves office before the expiry of his or her term,” the report said.
The committee then said in its observations, it does not believe that people were rejecting this clause out of their own volition.
They made an outrageous claim that civic society organisations were sending their members to each hearing session with intent to influence the outcome.
The position, reeks of the arrogance which has become characteristic of the ruling regime over the years, they believe only they know how this country should be run.
Zanu PF has normalized a culture of oppression and threat to dissent, to the extent they are shocked when ordinary citizens dare to speak up.
The people refused to watch their constitution undergo unjustified mutilation and their resolute approach should not be undermined.
Suggesting that NGOs were responsible for the rejection of the clause that seeks to remove running mates is disrespectful to the citizenry as it is a tacit suggestion that they do not have their own agency.
For people who underwent Robert Mugabe’s one centre of power brand of politics and subsequently are enduring the incumbent’s insufferable leadership, it should not be surprising that people no longer want the idea of token Vice Presidents.
One centre of power is detrimental to the nation building project, where national development should not be enunciated by a single person as is the case currently.
The Vice President’s office is an office which is not cheap to run, it bleeds the taxpayer.
Therefore, Zimbabweans should not be blamed for demanding to choose the person who gets to enjoy those perks.
It is a rational case of people seeking to decide how their money is spent.
Some Vice Presidents which have been chosen by Presidents over the years have not been flattering, one such is Phelekezela Mphoko who was as charismatic as a block of wood.
With such a history of appointments, Zimbabweans are justified to demand that the office becomes an office where one works to get the job.
One of the major qualms registered by people was that of national stability.
History in this case should be a point of reference.
When factional fights happen within political parties, they end up distorting the structure of the government.
In 2017, during the height of factional fights in Zanu PF, then Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa was fired from the government by former President Robert Mugabe.
When the coup happened, Mnangagwa became President and this saw the other Vice President Phelekezela Mphoko vacating office.
That is not how decent democracies should work.
A Vice President should be different from a parrot, they should have their own political capital which is not derived from the whims of the head of state.
Vice Presidents should bear their own mandate from the people, that way they can even question the head of state without fear.
These and other factors I have left in the interest of time, are the reasons why people rejected the removal of the running mate clause.
It is just that the government is not used to being held to account by its citizens, on the rare occasions it happens they try and deflect through accusing forces.
They blame embassies and NGOs alleging agenda setting, as if people do not have minds of their own.
Our Parliament, as the oversight player in our democracy should not aid undemocratic reasoning.
Alleging that civic society is leading the refusal of the ominous clause is Parliament taking a stifling stance where people are considered wooden logs with no agency or awareness, which is untrue.
In any case, the said NGO members are Zimbabwean citizens and their opinions are valid.
Hopefully, there will not be attempts to smuggle in removal of the clause when the people have clearly rejected the idea.
The people should not be undermined! Get all COVID-19 statistics for Zimbabwe from COVID-TRACKER