Category Archives: Zimbabwe


Zimbabwe – Draft constitution is effectively presidential

In Zimbabwe, the long and fairly tortured process of drafting a new constitution appears to have ended. The various parties have agreed a text. MPs have approved the draft text. A referendum is scheduled to be held later in the year for voters to decide whether or not to adopt it. The text of the draft constitution is available here.

As has been rumoured for some time now, the draft constitution is presidential-like. The president is directly elected (Art. 92) and is both head of state and government (Art. 89). The president and parliament both serve for a five-year term (Art. 95). There is a cabinet, but there is no prime minister. The president can dismiss ministers individually and collectively (Arts. 107 and 108). However, the legislature can also vote no-confidence in the government collectively. In this event, the president either appoints a new government or there is a general election (Art. 109). The president may also dissolve parliament under certain circumstances (Art. 143). Parliament may also under certain circumstances vote its own dissolution. Crucially, if parliament is dissolved, then there is both a presidential and a parliamentary election (which is called a general election). So, the presidential and parliamentary terms are not fully fixed.

Overall, the system seems to be like the one in Zambia if I am not mistaken. This is a very close variant of a presidential system.

Zimbabwe – Draft constitution revealed

The constitution-making process in Zimbabwe has been very slow, but it has moved one step forward.

The Select Committee Of Parliament On The New Constitution (COPAC), which was established as part of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that was signed on 15 September 2008, has issued the second draft constitution. The text is available here.

For readers of this blog, the key element is that the constitution is presidential. There is no PM. The president is the chair of the cabinet. However, there can be a vote of no-confidence in the cabinet (by a two-thirds majority). If the vote is successful, then the cabinet has to resign, but the president may dissolve the legislature. So, this draft has the same regime characteristic as the current constitution of Zambia in this regard.

The next step of the process is a so-called All Stakeholders Conference that should take place later in the year. It will be a sort of national convention, but without sovereign powers.

Zimbabwe – Part-draft of new constitution

In Zimbabwe, the Select Committee of Parliament on the New Constitution (COPAC) has provided a partial draft of the constitution. The text is available via the Herald Online.

The draft constitution is not complete. For example, the text of Chapter 6, Part 3, Ministers and Cabinet, is missing from the document. Indeed, large parts of key sections of the document are either missing or incomplete.

Even so, it seems from the text that is present and from the titles of the articles in Chapter 6, Part 3 that at this stage a presidential system is being proposed. There is no mention of a prime minister. The president is also denoted as the head of state and government. However, there is likely to be provision for a ‘Vote of no confidence’ in the government, though there are no further details.

If there is an fixed-term president and no PM, but there is full cabinet responsibility, then the constitution would resemble the current situation in Zambia.

Zimbabwe – Constitutional committee

In Zimbabwe, the process of drafting a new constitution has begun. This was a crucial part of the ZANU-PF/MDC agreement and a strict timetable was set out in the agreement between them.

The agreement stated that within two months a committee should be formed to begin drafting a new constitution. This deadline has, in effect been met.

Zimbabwe Times reports that a parliamentary Committee on Standing Rules and Orders has been charged with the process. However, immediately there has been controversy. In the first place, MDC wanted the committee to be co-chaired. Then, civil society organisations criticised the party control of the process and demanded their representation.

It seems as if the demands of civil society are likely to be met and that someone from outside parliament will be selected to chair the committee.

The civil society umbrella organisation that has been influential is the so-called National Constitutional Assembly. This organisation already drafted a new constitution in 2007. It is available from their website. It promotes a figurehead president elected by parliament, a prime minister directly elected by voters at the same time as parliamentary elections in a Guyana-like manner, and the provision for a vote of no-confidence in the PM and cabinet if 3/5ths of parliament approve.

Zimbabwe – New PM, text of constitutional amendment

Morgan Tsvangarai has finally been sworn in as prime minister of Zimbabwe. The text of his speech is available here. This confirms the implementation of the power-sharing deal.

The deal required a constitutional amendment. The full text of the amendment is available here. At the risk of making this a ‘dog that did not bark’ post, the text confirms that, despite having a prime minister, Zimbabwe does not now have a semi-presidential constitution, as defined in this blog.

The text of the amendment confirms the analysis in a previous post. Neither the Cabinet nor the Council of Ministers is responsible to the legislature. So, constitutionally, Zimbabwe remains a presidential system.

Zimbabwe – Text of power-sharing agreement

It was difficult to get the text of the power-sharing agreement in Zimbabwe, but it has been posted at The details are pretty much as expected. Note, however, from a semi-presidential point of view, that there is no provision for Cabinet responsibility to the legislature.

Art. 20.1.2 (f) states that the Cabinet is collectively responsible for its decisions but does not say who to. Art. then indicates that it is not responsible to anyone: “Ministers and Deputy Ministers may be relieved of their duties only after consultation among the leaders of all the political parties participating in the Inclusive Government”.

There will be a formal amendment to constitutionalise the agreement. However, unless the provisions of the agreement change, then Zimbabwe will not be a semi-presidential country. It will remain a presidential system in constitutional terms. Remember that other constitutionally presidential regimes have prime ministers who are not responsible to the legislature e.g., Guinea.

A process for drawing up a new constitution is outlined. This document may include some provision for Cabinet responsibility, but it may not! So, as things stand, do not add Zimbabwe to the list of semi-presidential countries just yet.

17.        Legislative agenda
17.1    The Parties hereby agree that:
(a)           the legislative agenda will be prioritized in order to reflect the letter and spirit of this agreement;

20.1.1 Executive Powers and Authority

The Executive Authority of the Inclusive Government shall vest in, and be shared among the President, the Prime Minister and the Cabinet, as provided for in this Constitution and legislation.

The President of the Republic shall exercise executive authority subject to the Constitution and the law.

The Prime Minister of the Republic shall exercise executive authority subject to the Constitution and the law.

The Cabinet of the Republic shall exercise executive authority subject to the Constitution and the law.

In the exercise of executive authority, the President, Vice Presidents, the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers and Deputy Ministers must have regard to the principles and spirit underlying the formation of the Inclusive Government and accordingly act in a manner that seeks to promote cohesion both inside and outside government.

20.1.2 The Cabinet

(a) shall have the responsibility to evaluate and adopt all government policies and the consequential programmes;

(b) shall, subject to approval by Parliament, allocate the financial resources for the implementation of such policies and programmes;

(c) shall have the responsibility to prepare and present to Parliament, all such legislation and other instruments as may be necessary to implement the policies and programmes of the National Executive;

(d) shall, except where the Constitution requires ratification by Parliament, or action by the President, approve all international agreements;

(e) shall ensure that the state organs, including the Ministries and Departments, have sufficient financial and other resources and appropriate operational capacity to carry out their functions effectively; and

(f) shall take decisions by consensus, and take collective responsibility for all Cabinet decisions, including those originally initiated individually by any member of Cabinet.

(g) The President and the Prime Minister will agree on the allocation of Ministries between them for the purpose of day-to-day supervision.

20.1.3 The President

(a) chairs Cabinet;

(b) exercises executive authority;

(c) shall exercise his/her powers subject to the provisions of the Constitution;

(d) can, subject to the Constitution, declare war and make peace;

(e) can, subject to the Constitution, proclaim and terminate martial law;

(f) confers honours and precedence, on the advice of Cabinet;

(g) grants pardons, respites, substitutes less severe punishment and suspends or remits sentences, on the advice of Cabinet;

(h) chairs the National Security Council;

(i) formally appoints the Vice Presidents;

(j) shall, pursuant to this Agreement, appoint the Prime Minister pending the enactment of the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment no. 19 as agreed by the Parties;

(k) formally appoints Deputy Prime Ministers, Ministers and Deputy Ministers in accordance with this agreement;

(l) after consultation with the Vice Presidents, the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Ministers, allocates Ministerial portfolios in accordance with this Agreement;

(m) accredits, receives and recognizes diplomatic agents and consular officers;

(n) appoints independent Constitutional Commissions in terms of the Constitution;

(o) appoints service/executive Commissions in terms of the Constitution and in consultation with the Prime Minister;

(p) in consultation with the Prime Minister, makes key appointments the President is required to make under and in terms of the Constitution or any Act of Parliament;

(q) may, acting in consultation with the Prime Minister, dissolve Parliament;

(r) must be kept fully informed by the Prime Minister on the general conduct of the government business and;

(s) shall be furnished with such information as he/she may request in respect of any particular matter relating to the government, and may advise the Prime Minister and Cabinet in this regard.

20.1.4 The Prime Minister

(a) chairs the Council of Ministers and is the Deputy Chairperson of Cabinet;

(b) exercises executive authority;

(c) shall oversee the formulation of government policies by the Cabinet;

(d) shall ensure that the policies so formulated are implemented by the entirety of government;

(e) shall ensure that the Ministers develop appropriate implementation plans to give effect to the policies decided by Cabinet: in this regard, the Ministers will report to the Prime Minister on all issues relating to the implementation of such policies and plans;

(f) shall ensure that the legislation necessary to enable the government to carry out its functions is in place: in this regard, he/she shall have the responsibility to discharge the functions of the Leader of Government Business in Parliament;

(g) shall be a member of the National Security Council;

(h ) may be assigned such additional functions as are necessary further to enhance the work of the Inclusive Government;

(i) shall, to ensure the effective execution of these tasks, be assisted by Deputy Prime Ministers; and

(j) shall report regularly to the President and Parliament.

20.1.5 Council of Ministers

To ensure that the Prime Minister properly discharges his responsibility to oversee the implementation of the work of government, there shall be a Council of Ministers consisting of all the Cabinet Ministers, chaired by the Prime Minister, whose functions shall be:

(a) to assess the implementation of Cabinet decisions;

(b) to assist the Prime Minister to attend to matters of coordination in the government;

(c) to enable the Prime Minister to receive briefings from the Cabinet Committees;

(d) to make progress reports to Cabinet on matters of implementation of Cabinet decisions;

(e) to receive and consider reports from the Committee responsible for the periodic review mechanism; and

(f) to make progress reports to Cabinet on matters related to the periodic review mechanism.

20.1.6 Composition of the Executive

(1) There shall be a President, which Office shall continue to be occupied by President Robert Gabriel Mugabe.

(2) There shall be two (2) Vice Presidents, who will be nominated by the President and/or Zanu-PF.

(3) There shall be a Prime Minister, which Office shall be occupied by Mr Morgan Tsvangirai.

(4) There shall be two (2) Deputy Prime Ministers, one (1) from MDC-T and one (1) from the MDC-M.

(5) There shall be thirty-one (31) Ministers, with fifteen (15) nominated by ZANU PF, thirteen (13) by MDC-T and three (3) by MDC-M. Of the 31 Ministers, three (3) one each per Party, may be appointed from outside the members of Parliament. The three (3) Ministers so appointed shall become members of the House of Assembly and shall have the right to sit, speak and debate in Parliament, but shall not be entitled to vote.

(6) There shall be fifteen (15) Deputy Ministers, with (eight) 8 nominated by ZANU PF, six (6) by MDC-T and one (1) by MDC-M.

(7) Ministers and Deputy Ministers may be relieved of their duties only after consultation among the leaders of all the political parties participating in the Inclusive Government.

Zimbabwe – Some details emerge

A power-sharing deal has finally been agreed in Zimbabwe. The full details will be announced over the course of the week, but some clues are starting to emerge.

The Zimbabwe Standard is reporting that, as expected President Mugabe will share power with Morgan Tsvangirai as prime minister. Mugabe will continue to chair the Cabinet and Tsvangirai will be the vice-chair. However, there will also be a separate institution, the Council of Ministers, that will be chaired by the prime minister and will not include the president at all. The Council of Ministers will supervise the work of the Cabinet.

The necessary changes will be brought about by a constitutional amendment that will shortly go before parliament. In addition, an agreement has been reached to begin a process of constitutional reform. The process will result in a new constitution within 18 months.

These details are confirmed on the blog of David Coltart, an MDC senator.

In terms of semi-presidentialism, it is still possible that the constitutional amendment, never mind the new constitution, will result in a semi-presidential constitution. However, there is nothing in either of the reports about whether the Cabinet or the Council of Ministers, or both, will be responsible to the legislature. It would make sense, but there is no information yet.

Zimbabwe – More talks

There is a good report in about the resumption of talks in Zimbabwe.

On Monday South African President Thabo Mbeki again met the three main protagonists. Apparently, he presented them with a document, which is apparently “long and technical” according to another source, that was designed to serve as the basis of an agreement. No deal was reached, but there is at least some grounds to suggest that an agreement is a little nearer now than it was when the talks collapsed a couple of weeks ago. That said, when the talks were due to resume on Tuesday morning, only Morgan Tsvangirai was present.

One way round the impasse is the idea that a new constitution will be drafted sooner than had been envisaged. However, the devil is always in the constitutional detail, so this idea begs the question of how future constitutional negotiations will be conducted and whether agreement will be forthcoming then.

Zimbabwe – Tsvangarai speaks out

The Zimbabwe Standard has published details of an interview with Morgan Tsvangirai in which he gives some really interesting information about the recent talks in Zimbabwe.

I will not go through all of the points, most of which confirm the rumours that circulated during and immediately after the breakdown of the talks. However, Tsvangirai says that he agreed to Mugabe remaining as Commander-in-Chief and also as the head of the Joint Operations Command, the main security agency, but that Mugabe insisted on remaining as chair of the cabinet. Tsvangirai is then quoted as saying: “Mugabe wanted to me to be responsible for solving the problems he created, yet he didn’t want me to have the full authority to carry out that task. The other problem was how could I be asked to sort out the mess (economic problems) when the person (Mugabe) who created it in the first place was in charge of the Cabinet”.

Recall that on 25 August, the MDC managed to have its representative elected as the leader of parliament. Also, the opposition parties have refused to join a government that President Mugabe is promising/threatening to form. As yet, there is no date for the resumption of talks.

Zimbabwe – SP still a possibility?

Recently I speculated whether Zimbabwe will become the next country to adopt semi-presidentialism. In the last week or so, it has consistently appeared that semi-presidentialism is at the heart of any deal between President Mugabe and the leader of the opposition, Morgan Tsvangirai. However, the deal has proved elusive and the most recent reports suggest that there are still major issues to resolve.

The deal seems to be premised on the notion that Mugabe will remain as president, while Tsvangirai will take up a newly created post of prime minister. In the context of this blog, I have not been able to determine whether the position would be responsible to the legislature, but it makes sense that it would be as the opposition has a majority there. In other words, assuming the opposition remains united (and this has proven difficult to achieve already), then Tsvangirai’s position would be safe.

As in Kenya, one of the sticking points has been whether or not the prime ministership will be an ‘executive’ institution. In other words, what will be the balance of power between the president and prime minister. The most recent report from All Africa suggests that the issue of who will control the cabinet is the sticking point. In particular, even though a cabinet that includes both ZANU-PF and MDC representatives seems to have been agreed, the issue of whether the president can appoint and dismiss ministers has yet to be resolved.

In an e-mail communication, John Power asked whether there was any information about who was advising the parties about semi-presidentialism. I have absolutely no information on this subject. Please leave a comment or send me an e-mail if you do have any idea. My guess is that this is a purely political deal and that the ins-and-outs of whether semi-presidentialism is a good system or not have not been systematically addressed.

Anyway, having just lost Mauritania, there is still the slim possibility that we may gain Zimbabwe.