The Constitution of Zimbabwe is the supreme law of the Republic of Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe's latest constitution was voted for and approved in a referendum of 16 March 2013. Before the current constitution, Zimbabwe used a constitution negotiated at the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement as Zimbabwe became independent of the United Kingdom after a protracted war of independence.
Lancaster House Constitution
The lancaster House constitution was adopted at the talks that took place at Lancaster house to negotiate the end to the protracted Liberation War which had salvaged Southern Rhodesia.
Up until its repeal there were 19 Constitutional amendments to the Lancaster House Constitution with the most notable being the amendments forming the Inclusive Government. Some of the amendments have been necessitated by the need to create a Constitution that reflects the values and opinions of the majority notably the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No.17) Act signed into law on September 12, 2005 which sought to redress the land imbalances of the past. Such imbalances created through legislation such as the Land Apportionment Act of 1930 and the Land Tenure Act of 1969, which prohibited blacks to own land in white areas. Other notable amendments were the removal of reserved white seats in senate, removal of the Prime Minister and non-executive Presidency forming an executive President. The most memorable amendment was one which ousted the jurisdiction of the courts to entertain matters pertaining to land that had been compulsorily acquired by the state.
Repulsion of the Lancaster House Constitution
The Lancaster House Constitution was repealed with the coming of the new constitution Amendment Act NO. 13 of 2013 on 9 May 2013. This was a result of the quantitative changes that had been occurring in Zimbabwean politics the first hint of such being the draft constitution of 2000, which saw a proposed constitution being abandoned after it failed to attain approval at a referendum. Seven years later in 2007, ZANU-PF and the two factions of the MDC party, came together and proposed another constitution christened the Kariba draft which was rejected for failing to accommodate public participation in the processand the fact that it was a secretive process and though the deficiencies of the Lancaster House Constitution were agitating for reform the people of Zimbabwe were not willing to repeat the same mistake of condoning a document which they had not authored to govern their rights and responsibilities.
The constitutional referendum was held on 12–13 February 2000. The proposed new Constitution of Zimbabwe, which had been drafted by a Constitutional Convention the previous year, was defeated. The defeat was unexpected and was taken as a personal rebellion to President Robert Mugabe and a political victory for the newly formed opposition group, the Movement for Democratic Change. The new proposed constitution was notable for giving power to the government to seize farms owned by white farmers, without compensation, and transfer them to black farm owners as part of a scheme of land reform.
On 21 May 1999, President Mugabe announced the convening of a Constitutional Convention to draft such a constitution fit for the country. The chairman of the commission was a senior judge, Godfrey Chidyausiku. 396 people were named to the convention, including all 150 members of the House of Assembly; some previous opponents of the government were included among the 246 other members, such as Professor Jonathan Moyo.
Global Political Agreement
The situation in Zimbabwe changed as 2008 witnessed political and economic crisis as a consequence of violence instigated against the opposition. This was against the backdrop of Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) losing the majority in parliament to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
Following a contested election result in the 2008 presidential elections in Zimbabwe, the country's 3 major political parties, ZANU-PF, MDC-T and MDC came together into a transitional government (an inclusive government) under the Global Political Agreement. This agreement had provisions for the setting up of an inclusive parliamentary select committee (COPAC) that would oversee the drafting of a new constitution which involved an outreach programme.
The COPAC processes was not very smooth with a lot of stops as the parties failed to agree on certain issues particularly those to do with presidential powers and whether or not President Mugabe would be regarded as having already served the two term limits that were being proposed or they would start counting when the constitution came into effect. They later agreed to allow Mugabe to be treated as starting a new term when the constitution would be initiated although he had already been in power for 33 years at that time.
With the coming into effect of the 2013 Constitution of Zimbabwe which had received 95% of the vote at a referendum held in 2012, a number of new provisions and rights were introduced, whilst some other provisions were immortalised and outlived the old Lancaster House Constitution to such an extent that they are mirror images of the provisions in the old constitution. The 2013 constitution brought about long awaited reform in the constitutional jurisprudence of the country, at least on paper. What needed to be determined and reinforced was the implementation and enforcement framework of the provisions and the ideology of the courts in interpreting the law (constitutionalism).
The new constitution was approved in the referendum of 16 March 2013 and parliament approved it on 9 May 2013.
Download the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act, 2013
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- , Progressive Reform in the new constitution-layout , Published: 23 February 2017 , Retrieved: 20 November 2017
- [ https://web.archive.org/web/20031206000755/http://www.gta.gov.zw/Constitutional/commission.htm ], CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION NAMED, Published: 1999 , Retrieved: 20 November 2017