Zimbabwe Parliament passes controversial constitutional Bill

HARARE -- President Robert Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party has voted overwhelmingly to amend Zimbabwe's independence constitution, a move that will see the effective nationalisation of all agriculture land and the creation of a Senate.
One hundred and three ZANU-PF MPs voted in favour of the constitutional changes, the first time since 2000 that Parliament has voted to amend Zimbabwe's supreme law. Twenty-nine opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MPs and independent candidate, Jonathan Moyo, voted against the amendments.

ZANU-PF won 78 votes in the March 31 parliamentary polls, but managed to secure the required two-thirds majority thanks to the support of Mugabe appointees and traditional chiefs who back the ruling party.

The amendments include barring individuals whose land is seized by the state from appealing to the courts except on the amount of compensation. The Bill that now awaits Mugabe's signature before it becomes effective law also creates a Senate and a single electoral body as well as empowering the state to seize passports of its critics.

This is the 17th time that Zimbabwe's constitution has been amended since independence in 1980.

The MDC last week tabled, but withdrew its own proposed which limited the tenure of a president to two terms in office, and allowed citizens to challenge land seizures in court.

The government's Senate plan calls for 65 members, of which 50 would be elected, the rest going to traditional chiefs and Presidential appointees.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, the architect of the amendments, has told parliament that the changes will enable the government will put to rest the controversial land reforms while a Senate will help scrutinize legislation and improve the quality of laws in Zimbabwe. ZimOnline.