By Staff Reporter

The Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) has said attempts by President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s administration to make fundamental changes to the national Constitution fly in the face of global democratic best practices.

LSZ president Thandaza Masiye-Moyo told journalists last week that the proposed constitutional amendments were retrogressive.

Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi late last year came out guns blazing accusing the LSZ of having lost its moral compass and acting like activists after the latter warned against tampering with the Constitution.

Ziyambi had been incensed by a hard-hitting statement by the LSZ following reports Mnangagwa among other things wanted to amend the Constitution and allow for the direct appointment of the Chief Justice by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission (JSC).

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But Masiye-Moyo stuck to his guns.

“We have been criticised by the Minister of Justice who argues we seem to have gone off our lane to use his words and turned ourselves into activists. The point we insist on making is that we are very much within our mandate if you look at the Legal Practitioners Act. What we did and continue to do is exactly what is expected of us. It is our firmly held belief that the proposed amendments to the Constitution are by nature very retrogressive except perhaps for one which relates to gender equality,” Masiye-Moyo said.

He said the proposal that the Chief Justice be appointed by the President in consultation with the Judicial Service Commission as opposed to public interviews was retrogressive.

The LSZ president said public interviews enhanced the independence of the judiciary.

“The current set-up was designed for a purpose that is to decongest power from an individual. Decongestion is aimed at ensuring that power is not concentrated in one person. We agree with this because it is in sync with what is happening elsewhere in the world.

“It creates checks and balances and answers to democratisation. Our argument has been that we do not want a Chief Justice who is forever indebted to the appointing authority and that is why we say the current set-up is democratic. It is progressive and answers to international best practices. It is the right thing to do,” Masiye-Moyo said.

“If we take that (provision) away, it becomes retrogressive. This Constitution is barely six years old and forms the foundation of a society, underpinning our behaviour as well as how we relate to each other. The assumption is that what is captured in the Constitution should serve us and the next generations except in very exceptional circumstances.”

Masiye-Moyo said there was nothing in the current political environment to warrant the proposed constitutional changes.