top of page

ZANU PF’s New Year’s resolution: Amend the constitution. How we got here and why it's not too late.

During the lull of the first week of the year, most Zimbabweans were commencing their New Year with ten days of fasting and writing down their New Years resolutions. The ruling party, ZANU PF, had begun to implement their own resolution. Their promise was to amend the constitution in ways that will consolidate the President’s powers over the judiciary and weaken opposition. With a majority in the House of Assembly, the political mood in the nation seems to be nothing can stop them. That could be true, except for the little case of the Senate and good old-fashioned politics.

Firstly, how did we get here? 27 constitutional amendments in one go to re-write a constitution that is only seven years old, even by ZANU PF’s dictatorial standards, is one big move. To put it into context, the US has amended its constitution 28 times in 233 years. South Africa’s constitution has been amended 17 times since 1996. Robert Mugabe managed to change the constitution 19 times over 33 years.

President Mnangagwa and his frontman on this move, Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi were emboldened to take this approach because of ZANU PF’s current control over the legislature. Zimbabwe has a bi-cameral system which is a fancy word meaning that there are two houses of parliament, the House of Assembly and the Senate. The lower house, the house of assembly is made up of 270 parliamentarians and ZANU PF has a two thirds majority with one seat, a total of 179 seats. The Senate has 80 seats in which ZANU PF holds 34 seats. In addition to the 18 seats held by traditional chiefs, who through patronage are likely to vote with ZANU PF, the number of controlling votes shoots up to 52 seats, two seats short of a 2/3 majority. These figures are vital because for any change to the constitution a super majority of 66% (two-thirds majority) is needed.

It must be noted that ZANU PF should never have reached 66% of in the House of Assembly. For all its positives, the official opposition, MDC-Alliance’s greatest regret from the 2018 legislative elections was the crisis of double candidatures in some constituencies. This death blow which was over-shadowed by the judicial battle for the Presidential vote has left the 2013 constitution which was hard fought for, hanging perilously onto its democratic fabric. In about 5 constituencies, the double candidature gave ZANU PF seats they would have never imagined winning. The constant reminder of this blunder is Deputy Minister of Information, Energy Mutodi’s Goromonzi West seat. In that seat, the two MDC-Alliance candidates had nearly 17 000 votes between them against, Mutodi’s 12 400. But because of the double candidature, Mutodi got into office. This situation repeated itself in 4 other constituencies. This means that ZANU could have ended up with 174 seats, and they would not have reached the 178 seat 2/3 majority mark.

However, it is not all doom and gloom, neither is it necessary to throw in the towel, yet. As noted, ZANU PF is short of two seats in the Senate. Their 52 seats (including the chiefs) fall short of the 54 needed for the 2/3 majority. To attain a 2/3 majority, ZANU PF will need the support of the two senators who represent people with disabilities. One of those has already sided with ZANU PF, leaving ZANU PF short of one vote. To say that the other senator representing the disabled is a swing vote is an understatement. They have the power to hold back ZANU PF’s growing dictatorial powers under the Mnangagwa regime.

There is also the underlying reality of this being a political game. Although ZANU PF has a super majority in the House of Assembly, it is a very small super majority. It takes only one or two ZANU PF MPs to vote against their government. There is precedent of this so it is not far-fetched although undoubtedly, this is easier said than done. However, it is an opportunity for the MDC MPs and senators to show their political acumen. 2019 was a disastrous year regarding democracy in Zimbabwe. The disappointing post-election violence commission of enquiry report, devastating hyper-inflation, the courts and police blocking numerous opposition rallies and meetings, the doctor’s strike all point to the sheer importance of protecting the little democracy Zimbabwe has, even if its only on paper. Without that paper, the task becomes even more difficult. The doubters will say, ZANU PF would not have tabled the bill if they did not have enough votes. This could be true, but ZANU PF has been known to be over-confident and arrogant in their ways before, this bill could be another sign of that.

12 views0 comments


bottom of page