Cablegate: Year-End Legislative Flurry Reinforces Ruling

Published: Tue 23 Dec 2003 09:58 AM
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 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
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 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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