Lawyers Denounce ED’s Retrogressive Changes on VP, Judges Appointments

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By Robert Tapfumaneyi

The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has described as retrogressive the latest proposals announced by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to amend the Constitution, scrap the presidential running mate clause and change the appointment of judges.

The lawyers are also up in arms over proposals by Mnangagwa to change the appointment of the Prosecutor General (PG) and Public Protector (PP).

Cabinet announced this week that it had agreed to make amendments on the election of Vice Presidents.

According to the proposed amendments, Vice Presidents will no longer be elected through the running mate clause, but appointed by the President.

“In terms of Section 92 of the Constitution, the presidential candidate chooses running mates who upon election become the national Vice Presidents,” the LSZ said.

“The rationale for these provisions was to introduce non-disruptive succession planning whilst ensuring that in the event of a Vice President taking over the office of President, he would be having the people’s mandate.”

The society said that the proposed amendment means that the Vice President would no longer be elected, but appointed by the President.

“This removes the transparency and democratic process sought to be achieved in relation to the assumption of these important offices. In addition, the Vice President’s tenure will be at the pleasure of the President. An amendment is expected to cure a problem or mischief. This is not apparent in the present case,” the law society said.

Mnangagwa is also proposing to make similar amendments on the appointment of judges, the PG and PP.

“The proposed amendment whereby the President appoints the Prosecutor General upon consultation with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) is reverting to the old Constitution. The current provisions promote transparency in the appointment process.

“Section 180 sets out the conditions that must be met in relation to the appointment of judges. The proposed amendment seeks to provide for the President. This approach seeks to reverse the elaborate, and transparent system currently in place. It is not clear why we should depart from the current system.

“It is not clear what mischief the proposed amendment seeks to address. The fact of the matter is that the amendment is retrogressive. It emasculates a position that is pivotal to our criminal justice. The proposed changes will take us back to the pre-2013 era where judicial appointments were shrouded in veil of secrecy.

“Any proposed amendments to the Constitution should be for the people and by the people. The Law Society of Zimbabwe further reiterates its position that the Constitution of Zimbabwe should be jealously guarded and protected in pursuance of the supremacy of the rule of law.

Meanwhile, political analysts have described the proposed amendments as a plot by Mnangagwa to dump his highly ambitious Vice President, Constantino Chiwenga and for the President to tighten his grip ahead of the 2023 elections.

Zanu PF has already endorsed him as their presidential candidate in the next election.

The running mate clause, contained in section 92 of the Constitution, provides that in the event of a sitting president’s death, resignation or removal, the first Vice President will assume office until the expiry of the former President’s term.

Commenting on the proposed changes, MDC Vice President and Harare top lawyer, Tendai Biti said the decision was unacceptable and must be resisted by all.

“A Constitution is a sacrosanct document that can’t be butchered on the alter for personal ambition and subjective power retention agenda. Capturing the Constitution to reproduce the ogre of a distorted corrupt mediocre power monger is unacceptable and must be resisted by all,” he said.