August 30, 2005

Parliament passes controversial constitutional bill

The ZANU-PF party has voted overwhelmingly to amend Zimbabwe's independence constitution, a move that will see the effective nationalisation of all agriculture land and the creation of a Senate. One hundred and three ZANU-PF MPs voted in favour of the constitutional changes, the first time since 2000 that Parliament has voted to amend Zimbabwe’s supreme law. Twenty-nine MPs of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and independent candidate Jonathan Moyo voted against the amendments. The amendments include barring individuals whose land is seized by the state from appealing to the courts except on the amount of compensation. The Bill that now awaits the president’s signature before it becomes effective law also creates a Senate and a single electoral body as well as empowering the state to seize passports of its critics.
This is the 17th time that Zimbabwe’s constitution has been amended since independence in 1980. The MDC tabled, but withdrew its own proposed which limited the tenure of a president to two terms in office, and allowed citizens to challenge land seizures in court.
The government's Senate plan calls for 65 members, of which 50 would be elected, the rest going to traditional chiefs and Presidential appointees. Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the architect of the amendments, has told parliament that the changes will enable the government will put to rest the controversial land reforms while a Senate will help scrutinize legislation and improve the quality of laws in Zimbabwe. (Zimbabwe Online, Harare)

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