ZANU-PF uses parliamentary majority to amend constitution


The Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front used its two-thirds parliamentary majority to change the constitution to allow it to legally acquire all land, create a senate and revoke passports of its opponents.

 It passed with Constitution Amendment (17) with 103 votes with 29 against. The party needed only 100 votes to pass the amendment.

 All 28 Movement for Democratic Change Members of Parliament who were present in the House and independent member for Tsholotsho Jonathan Moyo voted against the amendment.

 The MDC had 41 seats in Parliament.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2005-09-02 10:52

2011-08-30 01:44


Embassy Harare

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 HARARE 001238







E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/02/2015




REF: HARARE 001156


Classified By: Ambassador Christopher Dell for reasons 1.5 b/d






1. (C) Parliament passed the Constitution of Zimbabwe

Amendment (17) Bill on August 30 by a vote of 103 to 29. The

immediate impact of the 17th revision to the 1979 Lancaster

House constitution will be: to cement the GOZ,s acquisition

of commercial farmland; to grant the government authority to

revoke the passports of opponents; and to recreate a

66-member Senate. According to critics, the amendments

strengthen ZANU-PF,s hand against the opposition and provide

an opportunity for the GOZ to expand its patronage network.

End Summary



Amendments Breeze Through



2. (U) Parliament on August 30 approved the much-anticipated

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (17) Bill, after three

readings (reftel). The GOZ assembled 103 votes in favor of

the amendments, surpassing the constitutional requirement

that two-thirds of the 150-member body vote affirmatively.

Meanwhile, the 28 MDC legislators who were present in

parliament for the vote, plus Independent MP Jonathan Moyo

voted against. After the bill,s passage, ZANU-PF MPs broke

into song and dance, chanting &ZANU-PF has won.8 The bill

now awaits Mugabe,s signature.


——————————————— —–

Immediate Impact: Undercutting Economy, Opponents(

——————————————— —–


3. (C) The most controversial amendment grants title to the

government of all farmland acquired in the past under the

land reform program and any land that may be acquired in the

future as of the date that the land is gazetted. It also

removes the right of landowners whose land has been acquired

to challenge the acquisition in court. Landowners, only

remaining judicial recourse is to the administrative court to

challenge compensation to be paid for their improvements to

the land, not for the land itself. To implement the new

arrangement, the GOZ has announced its intention to issue

99-year leases that can be inherited but not otherwise

transferred without government permission, but these

long-term leases are not provided for in the constitution.


4. (C) The constitutional amendment also grants the GOZ the

ability to confiscate the passport of any Zimbabwean if the

government suspects they have the intent to engage in

activities detrimental to &the national interest.8 In a

thinly veiled reference to MDC leaders, Legal and

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa told

reporters after the bill,s passage it was unpatriotic for

Zimbabweans to travel the world on a Zimbabwean passport

asking for a military invasion or the imposition of

sanctions. MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga,

who represents the Glen Norah district in Harare, told poloff

on August 31 that she expected she and other MDC legislators

would have their passports revoked should they attempt to

travel abroad. Misihairabwi-Mushonga said that the amendment

was deliberately vague, granting the GOZ wide powers to

intimidate opponents. (N.B. We understand the potential

restraint on travel of its citizens may bring the GOZ into

conflict with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and

the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.)


——————————————— —

(Widening Patronage System With &Useless8 Senate

——————————————— —


5. (C) The constitutional amendment also reintroduces a

66-member Senate, a body which staffers of SUNY,s

parliamentary program in Zimbabwe told the Ambassador on

August 31 has no apparent function but to enlarge the GOZ,s

opportunities for favoritism. The staffers reported that the

Senate had no power of veto. Although Senators have the

authority to propose legislation, the staffers speculated

that, as with the existing Parliament, virtually all bills

would originate from the executive branch. ZANU-PF

legislator and member of parliament,s budget committee

Charles Majange, who represents Chivi South in Masvingo, told

poloff on August 31 that planning for Senate elections had

already begun but that the government had yet to allocate

adequate funding to set up the new body. A visit to the

parliament building revealed that even basic considerations,

such as office space in the already cramped building, had yet

to be contemplated.






6. (C) Designed to remove the final obstacle to GOZ land

reform, the nationalization of farmland and squelching of

judicial appeal in land cases will clear a huge backlog of

pending litigation over past land acquisitions. The GOZ,

however, may find a tougher row to hoe ahead. First, it will

be under considerable pressure now to finalize allocations

under land reform, which will likely intensify intraparty

fights already growing over land claims. With national land

ownership, ZANU-PF cadres may soon see land being taken and

allocated only to be reallocated again and again as

individuals fall out of favor with the party hierarchy.

Moreover, the party has sold these measures as empowering the

new farmer. Without transferable title, though, the new

farmers will find capital still inaccessible, leaving them

dependent as ever on the bankrupt GOZ and its mismanaged

command and control measures for inputs. Indeed, GOZ

propaganda characterizing these measures as the last chapter

on land reform will not stem wide disenchantment with the

ruling party’s management of land reform. Ironically, having

consciously pursued the land-related amendments to bolster

party patronage, these provisions may soon magnify the

patronage system’s growing weakness and drive new wedges into

the party.



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Charles Rukuni
The Insider is a political and business bulletin about Zimbabwe, edited by Charles Rukuni. Founded in 1990, it was a printed 12-page subscription only newsletter until 2003 when Zimbabwe's hyper-inflation made it impossible to continue printing.


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