—Richard Albert, Boston College Law School
Zimbabweans will vote to approve a new constitution on Saturday. Drafting a new constitution was a condition of the 2008 coalition formed between political rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
The draft constitution is the product of a 25-member committee on which all three political parties are represented. In light of its support from both Mugabe and Tsvangirai, the draft constitution is expected to win approval on Saturday.
The draft constitution is substantially different from the current constitution, which has been in force since 1980. Here are a few of those differences.
All citations to the draft constitution are designated “DC” while “CC” refers to the current constitution.
Presidential Term-Limits: The draft constitution sets a two-term limit for the president, with a single term lasting five years. In contrast, under the current constitution a single term lasts six years and there are no limits on the number of terms a president can serve. (Compare DC ch. 5, pt. II, art. 95, with CC ch. IV, pt. I, art. 29)
Judicial Appointments: The draft constitution authorizes the president to appoint all judges but appointments must be made from a list of nominees compiled by the Judicial Service Commission. The current constitution requires the president only to consult with the Judicial Service Commission; the president may reject the advice of the Commission. (Compare DC ch. 8, pt. II, art. 180, with CC ch. VII, art. 84)
Judicial Interpretation: The draft constitution includes a provision similar to Section 39 of South Africa’s Constitution. The draft constitution states that the judiciary and other bodies “must take into account international law” and “may consider relevant foreign law” when interpreting fundamental freedoms and human rights. The current constitution contains no such instruction to the judiciary or other bodies. (Compare DC ch. 4, pt. I, art. 46, with CC ch. III, art. 11 and CC ch. VIII)
International law: The draft constitution requires Zimbabwe to incorporate into its domestic law all international conventions, treaties and agreements to which Zimbabwe is a party. In contrast, the current constitution gives Zimbabwe the discretion to choose whether to incorporate them into law. (Compare DC ch. 2, art. 34, with CC ch. XII, art. 111B)
Other: The draft constitution includes several provisions worthy of note, including a prohibition on same-sex marriage (DC ch. 4, pt. II, art. 78(3)), a requirement of independent electoral redistricting (DC ch. 7, pt. III, art. 161), as well as limits on debt and public borrowing (DC ch. 17, pt. I, art. 300). The draft constitution also establishes independent agencies for elections (DC ch. 12, pt. II, arts. 238-41), human rights (DC ch. 12, pt. II, arts. 242-44), gender (DC ch. 12, pt. II, arts. 245-47), and media (DC ch. 12, pt. II, arts. 248-50). The draft constitution also creates a National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (DC ch. 12, pt. II, arts. 251-53) as well as an Anti-Corruption Commission (DC ch. 13, pt. I, arts. 254-57).
Despite the international interest in Saturday’s vote, Zimbabwe has prohibited the United States and the European Union from sending observers. Zimbabwe’s Foreign Minister, Simbarashe Mumbengegwi, has expressed doubts about the objectivity of western observers: “To be an observer, you have to be objective and once you impose sanctions on one party, your objectivity goes up in smoke.” Mumbengegwi added: “I do not see why they need to be invited when they have never invited us to monitor theirs.”
The African Union has been invited to observe the vote.
Suggested Citation: Richard Albert, Zimbabwe’s New Constitution, Int’l J. Const. L. Blog, March 11, 2013, available at: http://www.iconnectblog.com/2013/03/zimbabwes-new-constitution.