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What Zimbabwe MPs said about the Constitution Amendment Bill-Part Three

HON. GONESE: Thank you very much Mr. Chairman.  Hon. Vice President, I have been looking at your memorandum and in terms of that, I have not seen the particular justification for changing the title of the Judge President in the Labour Court.  When you look at our current Constitution, in terms of the sixth Schedule, I think that there was broad consensus among the people of Zimbabwe and also the political parties that the status of our labour court judges should be elevated.  That is the reason why, in its wisdom, the Constitution Select Committee and subsequently this august House, in adopting the amendment of the Constitution, we agree that every person who previously was called a President of the Labour Court would then become a judge on the same conditions.

Mr. Chairperson, on the same token, it was then agreed that the senior judge in the Labour Court would also be called the Judge President.  I want to understand from the Vice President, what is the harm in retaining the title of Judge President of the Labour Court?  To me, it would appear like you want to demean the status of the labour court judges if you do not accord them the same respect that you accord the person who is in charge of administration of the High Court.  I want to believe that the person who is in charge of the administration of the labour court should be given the same title as that given to the person who is also in charge of the administration of the High Court.  We should retain the title ‘Judge President,’ in the same way as it applies in the High Court.  I really want to understand and get an explanation as to why you want to change it.  For that reason Mr. Chairman, I am not in support of that particular amendment and I believe that you should retain the status quo and leave the Judge President of the Labour Court as a Judge President in the same way as it applies in the High Court.

HON. MAJOME: I thank you Mr. Chairman.  I also wish to raise an objection to Clause 3, which is an amendment that seeks to change the title of the Head of the Labour Court from that of being the Judge President to that of being called a senior judge.  Mr. Chairman, the reasons for my objections are in the Constitution.  It is my view that if this amendment to this Clause is allowed to proceed and be passed by this House, it would actually undermine the Constitution in no less than two ways.

Firstly, Mr. Chairman, in terms of Section 188 (4) of the Constitution, the salaries, benefits and allowances of judges are prohibited by the Constitution from being amended while they hold the office concerned.  Currently, we have a Judge President of the Labour Court and using the literal rule of interpretation of statutes; benefits, as expressed in Section 188(4), would even mean a title.  A title is an expression of status and the power that an office holds.  Right now, to change the head of the Labour Court, who is the Judge President of the Labour Court to be a mere senior judge can be nothing other than the reduction of the benefit of enjoying the status and aura that comes with the title of the Judge President of the High Court.  That is nothing short of unconstitutional and for that reason, I object.

The second reason; I want to refer to Section 164 (2) of the Constitution, which is a clarion call to this august House.  I do hope that Hon. Members are paying attention and listening to what the Constitution says about what they must do when they are faced with any conflict between their duties and any proposal.  In this case Mr. Chairman, I have already explained that in my respectful and firm view, as alluded to by Hon. Gonese, changing that title is a demotion from being a Judge President of the Labour Court to being merely called a senior judge.  It is a diminution of the benefit of the status.

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