Zanu PF wants imperial presidency reinstated

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF has rejected demands by the MDC parties to reduce the age of eligibility of presidential candidates from 40 to 35 years, and wants sweeping presidential powers reinstated in the new Constitution.

According to an official report of the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference that will be used to make further amendments to the draft constitution, Zanu PF has rejected proposals in the draft to have a president who is wholly accountable to Parliament, stating that executive authority vests in the head of state.

“President has powers because is directly elected by people and cannot be checked by appointees,” Zanu PF says in its justification in the Copac report.

In the old Lancaster House Constitution, the head of state had wide powers and could rule for an unlimited number of terms.

However, Zanu PF wants Copac to preserve a change introduced in the draft that caps the number of terms any president can serve at two.

A new constitution is a major component of a transition from military-backed autocracy to a democratic system of government that Zimbabweans hope will create conditions for a free and fair ballot after disputed and violence-marred elections in 2008.

Yet its drafting has been marred by bickering between Zanu PF and its coalition partners over plans to dilute pharaonic presidential powers that underpinned three decades of one-man rule.  

The debate at the Second All-Stakeholders Conference touched on the pith of presidential powers, expanding the rights of women, devolution and freedom of expression.

Many important questions were left unanswered in the partial draft which the drafting assembly released on July 18, 2012 for public debate at the stakeholders conference. Zanu PF wants the draft constitution to clearly state that the president has a duty to “preserve values of liberation struggle as reflected in the national report in Founding Principles and Preamble.”

While the two MDCs want the President to submit resignation to Parliament not to the Chief Justice as is the case now, Zanu PF wants this preserved.

All parties agree that the President shall be sworn in by the Chief Justice. Zanu PF, according to the constitutional conference report, wants a clause in the draft constitution requiring that presidential candidates must have running mates to be thrown out, even though the provision was brought by the liberation party.

Section 5.5 (2) of the Copac draft Constitution says: “Every candidate for election as President must nominate two persons to stand for election jointly with him or her as his or her vice presidents, and must designate one of those persons as his or her candidate for first vice president and the other as his or her candidate for second vice president.”

Zanu PF insists on retaining two vice presidents, a suggestion rejected by the two MDCs.

Members of the Copac management committee, which has been handed the conference report, have until December to finish their work, meaning there is likely more debate to come. After reaching consensus on the draft, all the articles must then be approved by Parliament.

The constitution will then be put to a popular referendum, after which Zimbabweans are due to head to the polls again to elect a new Parliament and President.

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