Zimbabwe Parliamentary watchdog Veritas says it is not up to President Emmerson Mnangagwa or his ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front to offer the post of Leader of the Opposition in Parliament to Nelson Chamisa because that post already exists.
The post, it says, is clearly set out in section 151 of the Constitution which states that Parliament must appoint a committee to be known as the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders for the purpose of— supervising the administration of Parliament; formulating Standing Orders; considering and deciding all matters concerning Parliament; and exercising any other functions that may be conferred or imposed on the committee by this Constitution or by Standing Orders or any other law.
The Constitution says the committee must consist of the Speaker and the President of the Senate and the following Members of Parliament:
- the Deputy Speaker;
- the Deputy President of the Senate;
- the Minister responsible for finance and two other Ministers appointed by the President;
- the Leader of Government Business in each House;
- the Leader of the Opposition in each House;
- the chief whips of all the political parties represented in each House;
- the President of the National Council of Chiefs;
- two Members who are not Ministers or Deputy Ministers, one being a Senator appointed to the committee by the President of the Senate and one being a Member of the National Assembly appointed by the Speaker; and
- eight Members who are not Ministers or Deputy Ministers, four being elected to the committee by the Senate and four being elected by the National Assembly.
Veritas said it seemed Mnangagwa was thinking of changing the law because he had spoken of introducing the post of Leader of the Opposition and offering it to Chamisa.
“As we have pointed out… the post already exists and it is not for the President or his party to offer it to anyone: it is held by the person who in fact leads the main opposition party in Parliament,” Veritas said.
“One can only speculate at this stage what the President plans, and the public is unlikely to be told unless Mr Chamisa agrees to it. If however the plan entails giving Mr Chamisa a seat in the National Assembly then the Constitution will have to be amended.
“This would be regrettable. The Constitution is the country’s foundational document and should not be amended to resolve every political problem that arises. Political problems should be resolved politically – by negotiation – and not by tinkering with the Constitution.
“If the envisaged amendment would result in Mr Chamisa becoming a Member of Parliament, it would allow an unelected person to sit and vote in the Legislature – hardly a step towards representative democracy.”
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