27th July 2017
Prominent Zimbabweans Wednesday took to social media to slam a vote by MPs from President Robert Mugabe’s party to change the constitution, just four years after the country adopted the new charter.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.1) Bill, which gives the president the power to handpick top judges, is seen as a blow to the independence of the judiciary.’
“Another dark day in the dark and tormented history of this country. I trust the Butcher is feeling proud of himself,” wrote former finance minister Tendai Biti on Twitter, using his nickname for Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who pushed for the amendment.
On Tuesday, after hours of stormy debate, 182 Zanu-PF MPs voted for the amendment, more than enough to get it passed.
“The ruining party has been consistent in its 37 years of misrule – it has always acted to strip away basic rights of the #Zimbabwe people,” wrote former education minister, David Coltart.
Constitutional lawyer and aspiring independent MP, Fadzayi Mahere tweeted: “Instead of amending laws to align them to the Constitution, Zanu is amending the Constitution to align it with its selfish ends. Yuck.”
A new chief justice, Luke Malaba, was appointed in March under the current constitutional system of public interviews, though High Court Judge President George Chiweshe was seen as Mnangagwa’s preferred candidate. Analysts say that Chiweshe may now be promoted to deputy chief justice courtesy of this constitutional amendment.
Veteran human rights lawyer Irene Petras, responding to a video of Zanu-PF MPs celebrating in the National Assembly on Tuesday evening after the passage of the bill tweeted, with a large dash of irony: “Dear Zimbos, This is what your reps think of your “new” Constitution. Please vote them in again in 2018. Sincerely, Constitutionalism.”