Zimbabwe’s Senate approved a constitutional amendment bill on Tuesday removing a clause in the constitution on electing vice presidents, a move which the opposition says is intended by President Emmerson Mnangagwa to concentrate power in the presidency.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 2) Bill will also extend the tenure of senior judges, who will now be appointed by the president in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission, instead of being subjected to public interviews as is the case now.
The bill, which now goes to President Emmerson Mnangagwa for his assent, was passed by 65 Senators including 11 from the MDC-T, and opposed by 10 other opposition lawmakers. The bill required a two thirds majority – or 54 votes – to pass through the Senate.
The main MDC Alliance, which was controversially stripped of some of its lawmakers before the Douglas Mwonzora-led MDC-T was allowed to fill the vacancies, said the passage of the bill was a “sad day for all progressive Zimbabweans.”
“Mwonzora and his lot joined hands with Zanu-PF today to destroy the Constitution. The MDC-T has officially enabled Zanu-PF to mutilate the Constitution of Zimbabwe,” the MDC Alliance said in a statement.
Mwonzora notably voted against the bill, but it was all academic after 11 of his loyalists sided with Zanu-PF. A ZimLive analysis of the vote showed the 11 Senators to be Piniel Denga, M.R. Dube, Morgan Femai, Jane Chifamba, Gertrude Moyo, Martha Muronzi, Molly Dorothy Ndlovu, Kerina Gweshe, Rosemary Nyathi, Violet Meoketsi and Teti Chisorochengwe.
MDC-T spokesman Witness Dube said: “From our party, mostly women Senators voted for the bill naturally because of the clauses which guarantee women quotas both in parliament and local government.”
In 2013, Zimbabweans voted for a new constitution including a clause stipulating that the vice president should be elected together with the president, but the clause was suspended for 10 years in a compromise between the ruling Zanu-PF party and the opposition.