Parly invites public input on ‘Chief Justice Bill’

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\n HARARE – Parliament is seeking public comments on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 1 Bill, which seeks to restore sweeping powers to the president to singularly appoint the Chief Justice.

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\n A new Constitution produced by an inter-party parliamentary committee and agreed by Zanu PF and MDC negotiators before a referendum in 2013 curbed presidential powers by requiring the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) — a panel of mostly senior judges and lawyers — to conduct  public interviews for the vacant post of Chief Justice, reflecting Mugabe’s whittled down authority under the new Constitution.

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\n A University of Zimbabwe law student approached the High Court to stop the JSC interviews, arguing the process was flawed since the candidates were colleagues of, and known to, the interviewing panel.

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\n The High Court ruled in favour of the student, who also wanted Mugabe alone to appoint the Chief Justice.

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\n But the JSC lodged an appeal at the Supreme Court, invalidating the High Court ruling and forging ahead with the interviews, which were beamed live on state television.

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\n But the government is adamant that it is moving to amend the new Constitution to give Mugabe that sole responsibility.

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\n Section 328(4) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that “immediately after the Speaker has given notice of a Constitutional Bill in terms of subsection (3), Parliament must invite members of the public to express their views on the proposed Bill in public meetings and through written submissions, and must convene meetings and provide facilities to enable the public to do so.”

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\n “In compliance with this peremptory constitutional provision, and as part of public consultations meant to enhance participatory democracy, Parliament of Zimbabwe is inviting comments on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 1 Bill, HB1, 2017, for consideration by the relevant committee(s),” said a notice published by Johane Gandiwa, the assistant clerk of Parliament yesterday.

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\n The draft Bill has been put up on the Parliament’s website for feedback from concerned stakeholders.

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\n Gandiwa said public hearings on this constitutional amendment will be conducted in due course on dates to be advised.

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