By Violet Gonda
National Constitutional Assembly chairman Dr. Lovemore Madhuku says the new constitution does not allow a by-election for a new president. So if Zimbabweans vote Yes in the referendum and President Robert Mugabe wins the next election, then dies in office, ZANU PF will put up the nominee for president.
Madhuku was speaking in a panel discussion on the Hot Seat programme with Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga and analyst Ozias Tungwarara.
He said there is a provision that the political parties in the inclusive government put in the draft charter that says there will be no by-elections for the president for the next ten years.
“If the president dies or resigns from office, we will have the party of the president giving us a nominee. That is not acceptable. If the president dies we should be able to elect a president or at least parliament should be allowed to elect a president,” Madhuku said.
However Matinenga defended the clause saying: “What we’ve done in this constitution is to introduce the running mate clause and in any running mate clause provision, you don’t have an election – you are saying that the person who is the running mate automatically becomes the president in the event that the president meets some mishap or something. That is what we have done and the issue of a political party having to look for somebody to succeed an incumbent is a provisional transition.”
Madhuku argued that this is a worrying development saying in the current Lancaster House constitution there is a provision that says at the very least parliament would decide.
He added: “So if president Mugabe wins the next election in July or June and he decides to retire or he dies, then we will just be sitting around, all of us in the country, waiting for what the ZANU PF politburo or congress or central executive does.
“And if they tell us that it’s Mnangagwa or Mujuru, or they fight among themselves, we’ll just be sitting around until they decide who is going to be our president. That is not acceptable. I’ve not come across it anywhere else in the world so you can’t say that it’s a good constitution.”
Tungwarara pointed out that if there had been more debate on the new draft and more engagement, “better clarity would have been brought, but it ended up being compromises that were driven by what I think are partisan interests as opposed to the general good.”
Zimbabweans will vote on Saturday on a proposed new constitution, five years after a presidential election that led to a disputed result and widespread violence.
You can listen to the full referendum debate on the Hot Seat programme, where the panellist also discuss some of the contentious issues in the draft charter: Listen here to Hotseat