Zimbabwe's senate passes Constitution Amendment Bill

Friday, February 6, 2009

Harare - Zimbabwe's Senate has passed the Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 19, paving the way for the establishment of an inclusive government.

The Bill now awaits the signature of President Robert Mugabe to enact it into law after 72 senators who were in the House Thursday voted for its passage with no votes cast against it.

The Lower House had earlier on Thursday endorsed the deal which will see the country's main political parties forming a coalition government, expected to be in place by the end of next week.

President Mugabe will retain the presidency under the power-sharing deal, while Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the main Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) faction, will be appointed Prime Minister, and Arthur Mutambara of the breakaway MDC faction the deputy prime minister.

The parties will, among other things, also share Cabinet posts.

Presenting the Bill in the Senate, Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa said the passage of the deal would be historic as it would usher in a new era in the way Zimbabwe was governed.

A lot of hurdles had been faced and compromises made for the Bill to be acceptable to all parties, he said.

"It has been a long, frustrating, erratic, bumpy and quarrelsome journey characterized by animosities, disagreements, mutual dislikes, name calling, mutual demonisations, vilifications of each other's policies and leaderships," Mr Chinamasa told the Senate.

"But, notwithstanding the negatives, what is important and significant is that we have managed to reach this far and for that we remain forever grateful to our people and for their resilience, understanding and support."

Mr Chinamasa gave a brief account of how the negotiations between President Mugabe's Zanu PF and the MDC factions began way back in 2002 but had met various setbacks until finally an agreement was signed last year.

Following the passage of the Bill, he said "it is now time for the inclusive government train to leave the station" to applause from senators.

A representative of the Tsvangirai-led faction of the MDC, Sekai Holland, traditional chiefs' representative Chief Fortune Charumbira as well as David Coltart, a representative of the smaller MDC faction, told Senate it was vital for all parties to the deal to support it, as it was one instrument which would take the country forward.

Admitting that the Bill was imperfect, they all agreed that it was the only viable solution to addressing the seemingly insurmountable challenges Zimbabwe was facing.

"The Bill is flawed and has many potential pitfalls but that is inevitable because what we are debating is a product of compromise," said Mr Coltart.

"This process will not work unless we listen to each other."

The Bill has both permanent and temporary amendments of the Zimbabwe Constitution.

The temporary amendments would only be in effect for as long as the inclusive government is in place.

Formation of the inclusive government has taken more than five months after the initial signing of the agreements as a result of hardline stances taken by both Zanu PF and the MDC over issues that the latter wanted addressed before joining the envisaged government.

The Tsvangirai-led MDC finally agreed to participate in the government last Friday.