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Zimbabwe: Proposal to Strengthen Legislature

(Nov. 10, 2010) In late October 2010, the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) submitted its model constitution to the Constitutional Select Committee and to the Constitutional Affairs Minister, Eric Matinenga. Zimbabwean leaders, including President Robert Mugabe, have agreed that the country needs a new constitution to ensure democracy. The LSZ model proposes strengthening the role of the Parliament and decreasing the powers of the President. In addition, the LSZ advocates that the new constitution have stronger language on citizen's rights, to protect against the loss of those rights. (Simplicious Chirinda, Trim Presidential Powers: Zim Lawyers, ZIMONLINE (Nov. 3, 2010), World News Connection online subscription database, Doc. No. 201011031477.1_642b009743955305.)

Joseph Tshuma, President of the LSZ, said of the proposed constitution:

The draft seeks to entrench multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe, with significant power devolved to the provinces.

A strong declaration of rights and a clear separation of powers will protect people's freedom against encroachment by the state, but at the same time the government will have sufficient power to carry out its functions effectively. (Id.)

Tshuma noted that it had taken more than a year to prepare the draft, consulting with members of the LSZ, the public, and domestic and foreign experts. He described the important role of the LSZ in the process, stating, “[i]t is a statutory mandate for the Law Society to peruse, critique and … [give] informed advice to the legislators on any law reform in Zimbabwe and there cannot be any greater law reform in Zimbabwe than the constitutional drafting … .” (Zimbabwe's Influential Law Society Weighs In on Constitution, VOANEWS.COM (Nov. 8, 2010),

According to a former LSZ head, Sternford Moyo, a key aspect of the Law Society's model constitution is that it cuts down on executive authority and restores independence to the courts. Moyo said of the model constitution, “[i]t has a completely new power architecture. It respects democratic rotation. There is a term limitation imposed on those who hold executive authority of a country.” Moyo also described the proposed change in the balance of power between the national and the provincial governments, under which authority would become more decentralized. In addition, out of a respect for life and equality, the LSZ model eliminates the death penalty and protects the rights of homosexuals. (Id.)

The model constitution proposes a government in which there is a non-executive President, elected by the legislature and serving as head of state. A Prime Minister, elected by popular vote, would be the functional head of government. Defense forces, police, and prison management would all come under civilian control under the Law Society proposal. (ZIMONLINE, supra.)