Major changes to Constitution coming

>> Country has too many MPs

>> Salaries gobble 92pc of budget

0410-2-1-PATRICK CHINAMASASignificant changes to the Constitution which was adopted in 2013 are in the works as Government seeks to trim a bloated public payroll that gobbles around 90 percent of the annual budget.

Indications are that only four sections of the supreme law are not up for discussion as they deal with the country’s founding values and rights of citizens.

Discussions on possible amendments will focus on cutting the number and size of statutory commissions and the legislature.

On Friday, Finance and Economic Development Minister Patrick Chinamasa, a lawyer by training, told The Sunday Mail that the Constitution in its present form provided for a huge public payroll.

He said 92 percent of revenue was going to recurrent expenditure; and Cabinet had mandated the Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare and Finance portfolios to recommend ways of remedying this.

Zimbabwe has seven independent commissions as provided for by Chapter 12 of the new Constitution. These are the Electoral, Human Rights, Gender, Media, National Peace and Reconciliation, Land and Anti-Corruption commissions.

Only the Media and Electoral commissions are fully functional as Government searches for resources to operationalise the other five.

Apart from at least eight commissioners for each body, there should also be secretariats, offices and budgets to carry out their mandates. All of this is to be funded by Treasury.

Further, the country has 210 directly elected National Assembly representatives and another 60 women who enter the House via the proportional representation system until 2023. The Senate consists of another 80 members.

And Government has not yet even factored in the provincial and metropolitan councils created by Chapter 13 of the new Constitution. The provincial and metropolitan councils have not been created because Government is already struggling to fund House of Assembly representatives and Senators.

“We are frantically working hard to reduce that share of wages which is gobbling our revenue so that we have money left for our operations and capital (expenditure). The Cabinet has mandated Minister of Public Service and Finance to attend and come up with recommendations with measures that can be taken to reduce the wage bill.

“At 92 percent … it’s not sustainable. We need to basically have a frank discussion amongst ourselves and my strong view is that we can never borrow money to sustain our institutions. From a fiscal point of view, our bloated bureaucracy is not sustainable; look, we have so many commissions which all need to be funded from the Treasury,” he said.

Minister Chinamasa said the number of legislators was disproportionate to Zimbabwe’s population. He said the issue of revisiting the constitution was at the debate stage.

“Since I became Minister of Finance I became aware, more so now that … the new constitution has brought about a bloated bureaucracy, which from a fiscal point of view or budget point of view is not sustainable.

“I am particularly referring here to the many commissions that we created under this new constitution which all need to be funded from the budget. I am also, of course, referring to the bloated legislature (and) Provincial and Metropolitan Councils that we have created which also require to be funded from the fiscus.

“And of course you are aware that the numbers for our legislature were increased and when you look at these numbers in relation to our population, it is very clear that proportionately we have a higher legislature than is warranted by our population.”

Minister Chinamasa said because it was the Constitution that created the new institutions, it followed that amending the supreme law was the best way of normalising the situation.

The only other way of sustaining such expenditure would be, he said, getting external budgetary support.

“(This would) make us very much dependent on development partners for recurrent expenditure, something that should be avoided if we are not to surrender our sovereignty. So the point I am making, basically, is that we need a revisit of the constitution so that we … can be sustained by our own resources.”

The minister continued: “We should never (suffer) the fate of the regional and continental bodies that we have. I am referring here to Sadc and AU, which basically have to rely on external donor assistance to sustain their programmes as well as to sustain their institutions.

“If we go that route we run the obvious risk that we have in our midst institutions that we say are ours but which in fact are not looking after the interests of our people. We should never have a situation where our programmes and institutions are supported from outside; that undermines their independence, it also undermines our sovereignty.”

He said Treasury had been strained when trying to fund institutions existing before the adoption of the 2013 Constitution, and had only compounded the situation by creating even more bodies relying on Government revenue.

“In my view when we came up with this new Constitution we should have borne in mind the need for living within our means. We should have tried to cut our suit according to our cloth. I say so now because clearly I understand the budgetary pressures that we have to meet and I must provoke debate over whether we need this size of bureaucracy as we go forward.

“So I am saying let’s debate. Can’t we revisit the new Constitution with a view to trim that bureaucracy?

“I need to emphasise that in the event that the debate sways in the favour of revisiting the new Constitution we should regard Chapter 1 to do with founding provisions, 2 to do with national objectives, 3 to do with citizenship and 4 to with declaration of rights as sacrosanct.”

He said these four chapters were a “quantum improvement on what we had before”.

“So the message I am sending … is we must have institutions that we can support so that we can proudly say we are a sovereign, independent state. “The matter is still under investigation and consideration. When we think we have done the preliminary work we go back to Cabinet to present whatever options we might have come up with and we can’t discuss those options right now.”

The new Constitution was signed into law in March 2013 ahead of the July 31 historic elections which saw President Mugabe winning by an overwhelming majority. The Constitution-making process gobbled nearly US$100 million.

 

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  • Jones Musara

    yes, as part of necessary measures to reduce the bloated size of Parliament, the national Constitution should be amended to reduce the number of MPs. Considerations for removing the whole Senate should be made, so as totally removing the 60 seats reserved for women. The bloated Cabinet should be reduced as well. Salaries of Government officials such as Ministers, Perm Secretaries, Directors, MPs should be cut too. This is the time to seriously cut unnecessary spending of state monies.

    • r sibanda

      chinamasa is rt cut all those useless ministers who are wasting resources.

    • Pidigu65

      Good points, but you left out the salaries for diplomats, those too must cut, precisely by 50%!

      • Samaita

        Most diplomatic staff has been reduced to paupers. Months without pay.

    • Zatta Zvayi

      Is it not time MPs and Senators depended on their own resources if they are there to serve? Ministerial cars should be down graded from Mercs to some other affordable car? If a Minister wants a Merc, then he has to buy himself one.Has the staff audit of the civil service been concluded?
      BETTER MUST COME!!!

  • Andrew

    why we acting as if this country will never recover or are you making sure it never will Honorable minister. this is what we as Zimbabweans said we want so do your job and find the money

  • Shumba

    When the new constitution was done, where were you Chinamasa, i understand the were relevant thematic committees. It simply shows lack of depth in government. We will spent ages doing corrections! Senate, what for? 120 mps and 15 ministers can suffice for that little poor country. The army should be cut and so called youth officers should be abolished.

  • anotherGuy

    Just speculation but here is how I see it. This appears to be a move to eliminate Biti and Mujuru MPs at zero political cost. Those guys will be booted out with no need for bye-elections, with Zanu PF and its junior partner MDC-T retaining percentage representation.
    All in all I think it is a good move to cut down the bureaucracy. However, why not start with reducing the size of the Cabinet, which is less demanding legally. Then, as Jones and Pidigu65 pointed out, cut salaries and unnecessary spending. Finally consider changes that require Constitutional amendments, which do not, and should not be done willy-nilly. Remember, not some parts but the whole of the Constitution is sacrosanct.
    Skipping directly to amending the Constitution in my view hints towards some ulterior and sinister motives, leading to speculations like this one.

  • http://newzimbabwe.com/ 003Tico

    I would have thought that the Anti Corruption Commission was more beneficial to the country than the Media Commission which is just a propaganda tool.

  • Zatta Zvayi

    Ey, how can a constitution whose ink has hardly dried be amended? Shows that not much thought went into its publication and adoption.
    BETTER MUST COME!!!

    • rukudzo

      Ukatenga bhurukwa hombe handiti unoriendesa kuma tera richiriidzwa kuti varidzore rinyatso kukukwana?

      • haiwawo

        Iwe unotenga rakakura kuti nderekutumira here?? Kana rakakurisa iwe nyakuritenga uripo uye uriwe wakamupa mutengeis mari yacho pauzima ndiko kuti uri fuzazve. Saka toti mapenzi akawanda pakunyora bumbiro rovoda kusandura pasina kan nguva- mari nenguva zvinotambiswa iko kuine zvinodiwa munyika zvakakura kuti tibve kumangondo kwataendeswa naivo vokutipa bumbiro iri. Hudofo hwavo hune mafingerprints pese pese pane chavanobata.

  • Wilbert Mushore

    Now the chickens are coming home to roots ,, we used to argue about this during the constitution making process but nobody cared to listen. Its quite obvious we can not sustain this size of a gvmnt.

  • chimuti

    I have always wondered why we need deputy ministers in our country. They cannot act as ministers when the minister is absent for what ever reason including leave. Do away with all of them. Then you have Permanent Secretaries, Deputy Permanent secretary, under secretary all in one ministry. We also have A Provincial Administrator and a resident minister at provincial level, for what ? Remove these unnecessary posts in government.