Matinenga defers Constitutional Bill debate

HARARE - Eric Matinenga, the minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs yesterday deferred debate on a new Constitutional Bill to today after tabling it in the House of Assembly.

This caused a stir with Zanu PF legislators who had come to Parliament in full force objecting to the deferment.

This included government ministers who are regular absentees during parliamentary debates.

A heated exchange of words occurred between Zanu PF legislators and MDC MPs over the deferment.

Speaker of the House Assembly Lovemore Moyo allowed consultation to take place between Matinenga and Patrick Chinamasa, the minister of Justice and Legal affairs, Emmerson Mnangagwa, the Defence minister and Joram Gumbo, the Zanu PF chief whip, who then agreed to the deferment.

Matinenga informed the legislators on the reason for the deferment of the debate.

“It was motivated by the concern raised by the (Copac) management committee yesterday (Monday) that we can debate the Bill tomorrow (Wednesday). Today, I left the Cabinet meeting at 1:30pm intending to finish my speech on the Bill and put final touches on it and I am yet to finish it. But I will be ready tomorrow,” said Matinenga.

Yesterday, the parliamentary visitors’ gallery was packed to capacity with diplomats and other stakeholders hoping to witness debate on the Bill, which could pave way for the draft to go to President Robert Mugabe for presidential approval.

It will replace the current Constitution negotiated at the end of the 1970s liberation war and adopted at Independence in 1980.

Mugabe has said he will sign the Bill into law as soon as it lands on his desk as his Zanu PF party steps up its demands for a June election.

A new constitution was a major pillar of reforms agreed between Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the two MDC factions led by Morgan Tsvangirai and the one now under the leadership of Welshman Ncube in 2008 when they agreed to form a coalition government following disputed elections.

The MDCs are demanding further reforms before elections are held, but Mugabe insists elections should be held before the current Parliament’s term runs out on June 29. — Staff Writer/Agencies

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