Saturday, September 22, 2007

Zimbabwe News Update: Constitution Bill Passed; Impact of Sanctions Evident

Constitution Bill passed

Herald Reporter

THE Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill Number 18 was yesterday unanimously passed by the House of Assembly, amid thunderous applause from both Zanu-PF and MDC legislators.

The Bill now awaits transmission to Senate for approval after which it would be gazetted and become law.

The Bill — which seeks to harmonise next year’s presidential, parliamentary and local government elections — went through its third reading.

At least 111 Members of the House of Assembly out of the 150, including chiefs, provincial governors and the two Vice Presidents Cde Joseph Msika and Cde Joice Mujuru, who were present, voted in favour of the Bill.

A total of 100 votes are needed for a constitutional Bill to pass in the House of Assembly, which is a two-thirds majority.

A two-thirds majority, 44 out of the 66 Senate votes, is also required for the Bill to pass in the Upper House.

Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly Cde Kumbirai Kangai announced the results.

"The results are 111 Honourable Members voted in favour of the third reading of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill Number 18 Bill (H.B.7, 2007). None have voted against the Bill," Cde Kangai said.

"I therefore, declare to the House, the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Act Number 18 Bill has been passed in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Zimbabwe."

Vice President Msika said the event was historic and showed the world that Zimbabweans were a united people.

"I want to thank this honourable House for having me to say a few words after this historic occurrence where our people have demonstrated that we, as Zimbabweans, are capable of solving our own problems.

"We need no external advisers except where we feel it’s necessary," Cde Msika said.

He called on legislators to work together for the development of Zimbabwe irrespective of political affiliation.

"I must say people of Zimbabwe we should get ourselves committed to working together in spite of our political affiliations."

Cde Msika saluted South African President Thabo Mbeki and his government for the support and the role they played in efforts to resolve challenges facing Zimbabwe.

"We have amended our Constitution without any dissent in order to move on and push our development," he said.

Cde Msika urged legislators to continue to be united and continue with that spirit.

"May we keep it like that. Never ever should we fail to love our nation. We should put the love of our people first.

"This is the legacy I want to leave with you. As you know, I have come a long way, it’s time for me to depart. Work together as a nation," Cde Msika said amid resounding applause.

Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister and Leader of the House Cde Patrick Chinamasa, who steered the Bill, also congratulated legislators for the unity they had shown to develop the nation.

"I too join you and the rest of the august House to thank you for the support you have shown in trying to shove and move the country forward," Cde Chinamasa said. Lawmakers ululated and broke into song after the Bill sailed through the House.

"Ngatibatane pamwe chete, ngatibatane pamwe chete (Let’s be united, let’s be united)," the legislators sang.

The Bill seeks to increase the House of Assembly membership to 210 from the current 150.

It also stipulates that all members be directly elected
by voters registered in the 210 constituencies that will be delimited.

The Senate will now be comprised of 93 members made up as follows: six Senators per province directly elected by voters registered in the 60 Senatorial constituencies; 10 Provincial Governors appointed by the President in terms of legislation governing the appointment of governors; the president and deputy president of the Council of Chiefs; 16 chiefs, being two chiefs from each of the provinces other than metropolitan provinces; and five Senators appointed by the President.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will take over the delimitation of House of Assembly and Senate constituencies and council wards.

There will be a consequent repeal of section 59 and 60 of the Constitution.

Under the Bill, all four elections for President, House of Assembly, Senate and Local Authorities are to be synchronised and take place on one day to minimise logistical problems.

In determining the limits of council wards, the ZEC will be empowered to ensure that no ward falls into two or more House of Assembly constituencies.

This change introduces a ward voters’ roll and a voter can only cast a ballot in the ward in which he or she is resident and registered as a voter.

The variation percentage from the mean (average) constituency population will be reduced from 25 percent (as per Constitution Amendment Number 18 Bill) to 20 percent as per the current Constitution, which means the status quo is being maintained.

The Parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders is to be consulted in the appointment of the Public Protector (proposed new name of the Ombudsman’s Office) and Deputy Public Protector as well as the appointment of the Chairperson of the proposed Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.

The title of the Police Commissioner will be changed to Commissioner General of Police under the Bill and under him will be commissioners responsible for operations, finance and administration.

The post of Deputy Chief Justice will be introduced under the Bill to help ease the burden on the Chief Justice, who has had to discharge both administrative and judicial functions given the expansion the judiciary has undergone since independence.

Illegal sanctions to blame for economic challenges: Mutasa

Herald Reporter

THE biggest security threat facing Zimbabwe are economic challenges stemming from illegal Western sanctions, the Minister of State for National Security, Lands, Land Reform and Resettlement, Cde Didymus Mutasa, has said.

Addressing senior military commanders at a joint command course at the Zimbabwe Staff College in Harare yesterday, Cde Mutasa said the rationale behind the imposition of economic sanctions was to reduce the capacity of the country to survive within the context of a fully integrated international economic system.

Some of the commanders were drawn from Sadc member states.

"A degraded economic environment is being marketed as Zanu-PF’s inability to govern, thus justifying regime change," said Cde Mutasa. He said the West was equally angling for economically driven socio-political discontent that would lead to mass protests and riots as a precursor to illegal regime change. Such disturbances, he said, would be covered by the international media as reflecting a "state of ungovernability" in Zimbabwe. "The ‘crisis’ would then be referred to the UN Security Council with a view to imposing mandatory UN sanctions against Harare or conducting a UN sanctioned invasion to effect regime change.

"The MDC would be expected to preside over the process of restoring white economic hegemony and privilege," he said.

Cde Mutasa said MDC legislator for Chitungwiza Mr Fidelis Mhashu is on record confirming the MDC position that if elected to power, they would return land to white farmers. He said national security had remained central in the political and economic life of independent Zimbabwe.

"This is precisely because Government has remained loyal to the fundamental and liberation war driven objectives of offering economic security to its own citizens.

"Availing land and mineral wealth are key to enhancing human security. However, the goal of enhancing the economic security of Zimbabweans is being bitterly contested by the Western world led by the British government," Cde Mutasa said.

He said the Western countries had consistently identified "anti-liberation" forces and individuals whom they have used in attempts to resist African efforts at self-interpretation.

He said these anti-people efforts had failed consistently over the decades.

"African governments have seen through Western machinations and have refused to embrace anti-liberation forces. The support accorded Zimbabwe at the Sadc Summit in Dar-es-Salaam (Tanzania) should be seen in this context," he said.

He said persistent global anti-Government propaganda by the powerful media houses and the economic sanctions were two potent modern weapons being used to undermine Government and Zanu-PF’s grip on power. He said the economic "misery" that was being driven by illegal sanctions and the negative publicity would fail to undermine the resolve of Zimbabweans to defend the land issue.

"As Government, we draw comfort from the fact that our security establishment has remained resolute in the defence of the fatherland against these external threats," he said.

Cde Mutasa said Zimbabwe offered a good case study of the contemporary methods being used by powerful states to threaten the existence of smaller states.

He said the other was direct military invasion as in Afghanistan and Iraq where there were undeclared economic sanctions backed up by sustained propaganda by a powerful international media were tools, which were now deployed to great effect.

"Additionally, we have noted that the cyber space is now utilised to mount a sustained attack on a target country," he said.

He said the land issue lies at the root of current efforts to subvert the State in Zimbabwe.

The drive by Government to acquire land and distribute it to landless people had alarmed Britain, the US and the rest of the Anglo-Saxon community, he said.

Cde Mutasa said this prompted the US government to pronounce that Zimbabwe "poses an unusually and extraordinary threat to the foreign policy of the United States."

"This assessment clearly suggests that Washington is alarmed and views Harare’s drive for land restoration to blacks as spawning an international phenomenon where those natives around the world, who have been denied access to resources such as land in their own countries, could rise up and demand restitution."

He said the land reform programme was viewed as a "direct assault" on the ideology of private capital and property rights.

Zimbabwe covers 39 million hectares of land. Of the 39 million, 33 million hectares are reserved for agriculture while six million hectares cater for National Parks and urban settlements.

At independence, almost 6 000 white commercial farmers owned 15,5 million hectares of the most arable land, located in mostly high rainfall areas where the potential for agriculture was greatest.

Six million black people were confined to 17,5 million hectares located largely in low rainfall areas with poor soil fertility.

Cde Mutasa said as an instrument to effect regime change, Britain and its allies embarked on a demonisation campaign against the Zimbabwean Government, distorting, misinforming and exaggerating events taking place in the country.

"To further the objective of demonising Government, Britain and its allies in the West have deployed short wave radio stations, namely the Dutch-sponsored Voice of the People, the British-sponsored Short Wave Radio Africa and the American-sponsored Studio 7 which daily beam anti-Zimbabwe Government propaganda into the national airwaves, inciting Zimbabweans to take up arms against their own Government and praising acts of violence perpetrated by the opposition.

"The same Western countries have also sponsored the creation of a plethora of opposition aligned websites on the Internet which carry and promote the ideology of hate and division," he said.

Through selective reporting, Cde Mutasa said, the international media remained blind to acts of violence perpetrated by the MDC which always acts in cahoots with some Western-sponsored NGOs and the ZCTU.

"In doing so, they only focus on the actions of the police in order to create and perpetuate the impression that the police in Zimbabwe is partisan, brutal and repressive.

"The media and cyber war waged by Britain and its allies has been relentless to the extent that the image of Zimbabwe out there is that of a country which has sunk into anarchy," he said.

Govt dismisses Archbishop Sentamu’s sanctions call

Herald Reporter

GOVERNMENT says it dismisses, with contempt, sentiments by Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu who called on Britain and the Western world to intensify their illegal sanctions on Zimbabwe.

Responding to Archbishop Sentamu’s article carried by The Observer of September 16, the Minister of Information and Publicity, Dr Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, said he found it surprising that a man of the cloth would want foreigners to meddle in Zimbabwe’s politics and call for intensified suffering of its people.

"It’s unfortunate that the Archbishop of York is on the forefront of calling for sanctions on Zimbabweans. This shows how the men of cloth are being used to dabble in the country’s politics. Is calling for the people suffering a human right?

"Zimbabweans are very clear on what they want and that is why they are coming together to solve their own problems. We don’t need foreigners to help us and that is why Archbishop Sentamu’s comments are misplaced. "Right now I am coming from Parliament were both Houses have voted unanimously for Constitutional Amendment No. 18 and that is what Zimbabwe wants. It is a clear testimony that we do not need foreigners to help us resolve our differences and to move forward," he said

Dr Ndlovu said the Sadc initiative on dialogue, which Dr Sentamu lampooned, should be viewed not as foreign intervention but as a brotherly move meant to solve Zimbabwe’s problems.

Archbishop Sentamu recently added his voice to the anti-Zimbabwe chorus accusing the Government of human rights violations, likening President Mugabe to the late Ugandan dictator Idi Amin and calling on Britain to lead the intensification of illegal sanctions against Zimbabwe.

The Ugandan-born archbishop joins his compatriots Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa and disgraced former archbishop of Bulawayo Diocese Pius Ncube in calling for foreign intervention in Zimbabwe, which calls, observers said, went against the dictates of the holy canons of their respective churches.

These clerics’ support for the illegal sanctions is at variance with the progressive sentiments in Africa where Comesa and Sadc have spoken out against the sanctions. Archbishop Sentamu urged British premier Gordon Brown to lead a coalition of countries in mounting stricter international sanctions against Zimbabwe saying the Government was responsible for poverty and the general shortages of basic commodities.

"The time has come for Mr Brown, who has already shown himself to be an African interventionist through his work at the UN in favour of the people of Darfur, finally to slay the ghosts of Britain’s colonialist past by thoroughly revising foreign policy towards Zimbabwe and to lead the way in co-ordinating an international response," said Archbishop Sentamu.

Dr Ndlovu said Archbishop Sentamu’s sentiments were also timed to whip up emotions ahead of the UN General Assembly meeting that opens next week in New York.

"He (Sentamu) is trying to instigate and put a veil of crisis which is not there so as to brew trouble for Zimbabwe at the forthcoming UN General Assembly but the Zimbabwean Government is prepared to deal with such noises," he said.

Dr Ndlovu said the archbishop was advocating for the installation of a puppet government that would dance to Western demands and reverse the gains of independence.

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