ZANU PF chief whip Pupurai Togarepi says the ruling party will not use its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly to conduct a constitutional coup through extensive changes to existing laws and pass new legislation to further tighten the party’s stranglehold on power.
Following the weekend controversial by-elections caused by Citizens’ Coalition for Change imposter secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu, who recalled opposition MPs from Parliament, Zanu PF swept all six seats under contest, albeit amid serious voter apathy, to clinch a two-thirds majority in the lower House.
The by-elections were conducted in Chegutu West, Goromonzi South, Mkoba North, Pelandaba-Tshabalala, Seke, and Zvimba East.
Although Zanu PF will be limited by numbers in the Senate for an outright two-thirds majority needed to amend the constitution, the party with majority control in Parliament can still amend existing laws and pass new bills.
Under the same circumstances during the last Parliament, Zanu PF used its two-thirds majority in the lower House to pass draconian legislation such as the Patriotic Bill, Cyber Security and Data Protection Bill, and the Private Voluntary Organisation Bill that Mnangagwa later did not assent to after intense diplomatic pressure.
In an interview with The NewsHawks, Togarepi, who is also the Zanu PF MP for Chivi South, said his party will not push to change laws or formulate new ones solely to stay in power, but will do things in the interests of people first.
“We will not use our majority to change laws for the sake of it. There hasn’t been an indication from our leaders or Parliament of such intentions,” said Togarepi.
“When we contest in any election the primary objective for Zanu PF is to represent the people of Zimbabwe, to give leadership as well as protecting the founding principles of our revolution. More MPs for us means representing more people and their aspirations.”
He added that besides the idea of formulating laws that are targeted at maintaining power, Zanu PF MPs will be alive to the need to play the legislative role which is among the three key functions including providing oversight over government and debating key national issues.
…But ruling party has no two-thirds majority
ZANU PF does not and cannot have two-thirds. Contrary to popular perceptions, the ruling Zanu PF party does not and cannot have two-thirds majority in Parliament necessary to pass a constitutional bill on its own, local academic Dr Phillan Zamchiya says.
“In Zimbabwe a Parliament consists of the Senate and the National Assembly. I have noticed that when pundits talk of Parliament, they tend to colloquially refer to the National Assembly and thus far and no further,” he said.
“For a constitutional bill to pass as expressed in section 328 (5) of the Constitution, it needs yes votes of two-thirds majority of the membership of each House of Parliament that is the National Assembly and the Senate.”
Following the by elections held on 3 February 2024, the ruling party now has 190 seats (150 directly elected through first past the post, 33 proportional representation for women and seven youth quota) out of 280 seats in the National Assembly.
That translates to two thirds-majority only in one House of Assembly (Lower House and not Senate) and that is not enough to amend the constitution.
“This is because in the Senate, the other part of Parliament, Zanu PF does not and cannot have two-thirds majority during the tenure of this Parliament,” he said.
“In the August 2023 general election, Zanu PF got 33 out of 80 seats and will therefore need 21 seats to get a two thirds-majority in the Senate which is required to pass a constitutional amendment on its own.”
He said Zanu PF cannot have that two-thirds majority in the Senate because the proportional representatives are based on the 23-24 August 2023 general election outcome.
“Consequently, the opposition recalls cannot result in Zanu PF getting two-thirds majority in Parliament necessary to pass a constitutional amendment on its own,” he added.
“This is because the party that recalls simply fills the vacancy with its members. There are no by elections for that House. “Zanu PF will therefore need to persuade other members of the Senate for Parliament to be able to pass a constitutional bill. These Senate members are two representatives for people living with disabilities, the 18 traditional leaders and at least one Member of Parliament from the Citizens Coalition for Change.”
He added: “Politically, this is feasible given the prevailing Plastic Politics from the decomposing opposition party and partisan politics of some traditional leaders. Add to that Zanu PF’s use of coercion, persuasion and patronage.
“However, it is not given and it is not a fact that Zanu PF has two thirds majority in Parliament.”