CONSTITUTION WATCH 29/2013
[22nd May 2013]
The New Constitution of Zimbabwe was Gazetted Today, Wednesday 22nd May 2013
Signing Ceremony at State House 22nd May 2013
President Mugabe signed the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment (No. 20) Act at State House this morning.
New Constitution Act Gazetted House 22nd May 2013
The Act was gazetted – published in the Government Gazette – this afternoon.
The Act enacts the new Constitution of Zimbabwe as law. The text of the new Constitution is set out in the Schedule to the Act.
This gazetting makes 22nd May 2013, “publication day” for the purposes of the new Constitution. [The term “publication day” is defined in the new Constitution’s Sixth Schedule as the day on which the Act is published in the Government Gazette]. For the significance of “publication day”, see the following paragraph.
Parts of the New Constitution that are Operative from Today
The two-stage transitional process from the old Constitution to the new Constitution was described in Constitution Watch 26/2013 of 8th May. The parts of the new Constitution listed below come into operation immediately on “publication day”, today – and they override the corresponding parts in the old Constitution. The “effective date” for the rest of the new Constitution is the day that whoever is elected President in the next harmonised elections is sworn in and assumes office. Pending the effective date, those parts of the old Constitution not overridden by the new Constitution continue in operation.
The parts of the new Constitution that are in effect from today onwards are listed in its Sixth Schedule:
(a) Chapter 3, relating to citizenship
(b) Chapter 4, being the Declaration of Rights
(c) Chapter 5, relating to the election and assumption of office of the President
(d) Chapter 6, relating to the election of Members of Parliament, the summoning of Parliament after a general election and to the assent to Acts of Parliament by the President
(e) Chapter 7, relating to elections, except sections 158, 160 and 161
(f) Chapter 8, relating to the jurisdiction and powers of the Constitutional Court
(g) Chapter 9, relating to principles of public administration and leadership
(h) section 208, relating to the conduct of members of the security services
(i) Chapter 12, in so far as it relates to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
(j) Chapter 14, relating to provincial and local government.
Immediate Practical Effects of New Constitution
A full discussion is beyond the scope of this bulletin, but areas in which the new Constitution should have an immediate impact from today onwards include:
The Registrar-General and his officials will be obliged to apply the new provisions when dealing with applications for IDs, voter registration and passports. There should be a marked reduction in difficulties with officialdom.
The President will not be able to issue a proclamation calling the next elections immediately. He will have to wait for the Electoral Amendment Bill to be passed and gazetted as law. This is because the new Constitution’s provisions for elections – e.g. for some members of the National Assembly and Senators to be elected under a party-list system of proportional representation – cannot be implemented under the current Electoral Act. [Note: Parliament must do so before the 29th June when it expires.]
New rights for arrested and detained persons
The new Declaration of Rights is in force from today. It confers important new rights on arrested and detained persons. For example, anyone arrested for an alleged offence “must be brought before a court as soon as possible and in any event not later than 48 hours after the arrest took place or the detention began, as the case may be, whether or not the period ends on a Saturday, Sunday or public holiday ... [and any] person who is not brought to court within the 48-hour period must be released immediately unless their detention has earlier been extended by a competent court” [section 50(2)]. This overrides current provisions in the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Act allowing detention for more than 48 hours before first court appearance, and allowing senior police officers to issue warrants for further detention in their capacity as “justices of the peace”. The overridden provisions are no longer operative.
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