Zvobgo’s hospitalisation slows down bills


The hospitalisation of Masvingo legislator Eddison Zvobgo in October 2003 halted Parliament’s ability to pass bills for several weeks as he was chairman of the crucial Parliamentary Legal Committee.

According to the constitution, the PLC must examine every bill, except Constitutional Bills, introduced in parliament or amended after PLC examination but before the final reading; every draft bill; and every statutory and draft statutory instrument to ensure that they are not in contravention of the Declaration of Rights.

Speaker of Parliament Emmerson Mnangagwa had to ask Movement for Democratic Change legislator and secretary-general Welshman Ncube to chair the committee.

He was also forced to appoint on a temporary basis another MDC legislator Innocent Gonese giving the MDC a majority in the committee which has to have three people two of whom should be qualified lawyers.

The third member, Kumbirai Kangai, of the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front, was not a lawyer.


Full cable:



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Reference ID






2003-12-23 09:58

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.












E.O. 12958: N/A





REF: A. HARARE 02353

B. HARARE 2421

C. HARARE 1135



1. (SBU) Summary: Parliament adjourned for the holiday season

on December 18 after passing legislation that disenfranchises

thousands of voters and favors the ruling party in the 2005

Parliamentary elections. However, Parliament was not able to

push through legislation that would ease the acquisition of

farms despite a furtive effort to do so over the last three

weeks. In spite of newfound influence as the majority on the

Parliamentary Legal Committee, the MDC is still powerless to

stop ZANU-PF from passing these and other highly contentious

pieces of legislation. End summary.



Quest to Disenfranchise Voters Continues


2. (U) The Citizenship of Zimbabwe Amendment Bill, which

Parliament passed before adjourning on December 18, is one of

two bills that would have direct implications on future

elections, the other being the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Both Bills were carried over from the last session. The

controversial Citizenship Bill, which was first gazetted in

February 2003 and did not receive a favorable report from the

Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC)–the body responsible for

checking the constitutionality of proposed

legislation–allows people of Southern African Development

Community (SADC) descent who were born in Zimbabwe to get a

certificate confirming their citizenship without having to

renounce the country of their parents. The bill limits such

beneficiaries to those whose SADC parent(s) immigrated into

or Zimbabwean parent(s) emigrated out of Zimbabwe to work as

a general laborer, farm laborer, mineworker, or domestic

employee. The government-controlled daily newspaper The

Herald quoted Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa,s

defense of the bill as a way to &facilitate and complete

their assimilation and integration into our society.8

Chinamasa also claimed that the bill made it easier for this

group of illiterate people to renounce their citizenship and

restore their dignity. COMMENT: The Citizenship Amendment

Bill appears to be a way for ZANU-PF to regain the support of

Zimbabweans of SADC heritage, in particular former commercial

farm workers. The GOZ also used the citizenship legislation

as a bargaining tool with Zambia, Malawi, and Mozambique. In

its carefully worded text, the Bill deliberately excludes

white Zimbabweans from claiming citizenship without removing

allegiance to the country of ancestry. END COMMENT.


3. (SBU) The Electoral Amendment Bill, which was first

gazetted in March 2002, lapsed at the end of last session and

has been reintroduced. Despite an adverse PLC report and a

negative report by the Portfolio committee, it is unlikely

the contents of the bill will be changed. Minister of

Justice Patrick Chinamasa has been reluctant to share the

latest version with stakeholders and appears to want to give

analysts as little time as possible to review the &new8

bill, according to Miles Toder, Director of State University

of New York,s Strengthening of Parliament Programs. At last

review, the bill imposed a range of restrictions that would

disenfranchise many voters, prevent civic organizations from

engaging in voter education, limit election monitoring and

observation, and prevent posting of posters and other

campaign materials on walls, trees, etc. without the

permission of the owner. Under the bill, only diplomatic

staff and defense force personnel were able to vote by post,

thereby depriving the large numbers of Zimbabweans outside

the country of their right to vote. The requirement for

proof of constituent residency may also disenfranchise many




Land Acquisition Bill


4. U) Most observers expected the Land Acquisition Amendment

Bill, which has been referred to the PLC, to be fast-tracked

through Parliament before it adjourned on December 18. The

bill makes it procedurally easier for the GOZ to acquire land

and expands the types of land it can acquire to include

plantation farms, agro-industrial property, export processing

zones, and approved conservancies. The bill makes these

rules retroactive to May 2000. (See ref A)


5. (U) The land bill is not only controversial in its content

but also in the way in which it was introduced into

Parliament. The public was led to believe the Bill was

gazetted on November 28 but no one was able to get a copy and

it was not included in the gazette issued by government

printers on that date. Instead, the Government Gazette for

December 5 contained an extraordinary gazette with the Bill

published with the November 28 date. According to

parliamentary procedure, bills are gazetted 14 days before

they are introduced in Parliament. This allows lawmakers and

the public to read and prepare comment on government,s

intentions. Parliament agreed to suspend its Standing Order

that dictates the 14-day minimum and reduced the time limit

to 10 days, thereby fueling speculation that the Bill would

be rushed through. In the end, however, the bill was deferred

until the next sitting.


6. (U) In addition to trying to rush through the Land

Acquisition Amendment Bill, the GOZ published in an

Extraordinary Gazette on December 16 a Statutory Instrument

that authorizes agents of the Ministry of Lands to seize farm

equipment and material from former commercial farmers. (See

Ref B)



PLC Problems


7. (U) The October hospitalization of ZANU-PF MP and chair of

the Parliamentary Legal Committee (PLC) Eddison Zvobgo halted

Parliament,s ability to pass bills for several weeks. Not

until Speaker of the House Emmerson Mnangagwa asked Welshman

Ncube, MDC MPP and a member of the PLC, to serve as temporary

chair and Innocent Gonese, MDC Chief Whip and a qualified

legal practitioner, to become a temporary member of the

committee did Parliamentary business resume. Because of the

lack of legally qualified ZANU-PF MPs, Mnangagwa was forced

to appoint an MDC MP to the PLC if Parliament were to

function. These temporary appointments give the MDC a

majority on the committee. The remaining PLC member is

Kumbirai Kangai, a ZANU-PF MP from Buhera South in

Manicaland, who has no legal training. (NOTE: According to

the Zimbabwe Constitution, the PLC must examine every bill,

except Constitutional Bills, introduced into Parliament or

amended after PLC examination but before the final reading;

every draft bill; and every statutory and draft statutory

instrument to ensure that they are not in contravention of

the Declaration of Rights. The PLC must have at least 3

members, the majority of whom should be qualified lawyers .




ZANU-PF’s Quest for a Two-Thirds Majority


8. (U) ZANU-PF will have a difficult opportunity to draw one

seat closer to the two-thirds majority it needs to amend the

constitution. Tafadzwa Musekiwa, MDC MP for Zengeza (a

Harare suburb near Chitungwiza and an area of MDC strength),

resigned his seat in Parliament, after having fled Zimbabwe

for Britain earlier this year. According to the Zimbabwe

Constitution, an MP who misses more than 21 consecutive days

of Parliament can be dismissed. Musekiwa,s resignation

reduces the MDC,s representation to 52, down from 57 MPs

after the 2000 parliamentary elections. ZANU-PF has 65

elected MPs and 30 appointed MPs and ZANU-Ndongo one. The

Gutu North (Masvingo province) by-election to replace

deceased Vice President Simon Muzenda is scheduled to take

place on February 2 and 3, 2004 and will most likely be won






9. (SBU) Parliament concluded the year having passed three

controversial amendments (the Broadcasting Services Amendment

Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy

Amendment Act during the last session and the Citizenship of

Zimbabwe Amendment Bill this session; ref C and D) and having

two more bad laws (the Land Acquisition Amendment and the

Electoral Amendment) ready to pass through Parliament when it

resumes next year. MDC MPs can do little to halt the

progression of these bills, as a simple majority is all that

is required for passage. Additionally, voting is not

confidential so ZANU-PF MPs may be reluctant to join MDC MPs



in objecting to some of the more egregious pieces of



10. (SBU) The MDC majority in the PLC offers somewhat

illusory influence. It gives the MDC an opportunity to

comment on pieces of legislation and to ostensibly slow the

passage of bad laws. However, while the Zimbabwe

Constitution mandates the PLC review, a simple majority in

Parliament can override the PLC reports.


11. (SBU) The GOZ will most likely ram through both the

Electoral Amendment Bill and the Land Acquisition Amendment

Bill during the next sitting. The &new8 Electoral Amendment

Bill, which the Minister of Justice is revising, will most

likely resurface with only limited cosmetic changes, much

like the AIPPA Amendment, and proceed through Parliament with

a simple majority. The Land Acquisition Amendment Bill will

most likely follow suit.


12. (SBU) ZANU-PF is getting closer to the two-thirds

majority it needs to alter the Constitution. If the party

were to win both Gutu (likely) and the Zengeza seat

(unlikely) and ZANU Ndongo (which holds one seat) votes with

ZANU-PF, they would be two votes shy of this majority.

However, ZANU-PF winning the Harare suburb Zengeza seat is

unlikely given the overwhelming support for the MDC in

Harare. If two or three MDC seats do not come open, ZANU-PF

may just wait until scheduled 2005 Parliamentary elections

and focus on winning two seats held by MDC MPs in ZANU-PF

strongholds, Masvingo and Mashonaland. End Comment.




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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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