Press Morgan Tsvangirai’s statement to the press
Thank you very much for coming at short notice.
In March 2013, the President signed into law the new Constitution that was the result of four years of negotiation and which had been adopted by over 90 per cent of the electorate in Zimbabwe. It was an historic occasion and represented the first time that Zimbabweans had the opportunity to agree on a new home grown Constitutional dispensation for the Country.
However, despite all their undertakings and assurances, the Zanu PF Party has shown absolutely no appetite for the implementation of the new Constitution and out of over 400 existing Acts of Parliament that require alignment to the new legal dispensation, only a handful have been presented to Parliament for consideration and even these have, in the most part, been faulty in their content and rejected as not being compliant with the new Constitution.
Today we face yet another challenge in that the Minister of Local Government has threatened to dissolve the elected Council for the City of Harare and to replace it with an unelected “Commission”. The issue at stake being the appointment of the town clerk. In July 2015 he did precisely that in the case of the Gweru City Council despite our warnings that he was acting ultra vires the new Constitution.
At that time the MDC threatened to take the matter to the Courts for a decision and he simply brushed our objections aside and went ahead with his unlawful action. We subsequently took him to Court – first in Gweru and when he appealed the Judge’s decision, we took the matter up with the High Court in Bulawayo. In the subsequent decision issued in March 2016, the Judge dismissed the Minister’s appeal and awarded the MDC costs. Now he has appealed this decision to the Supreme Court.
This represents a gross abuse of his ministerial authority and a complete waste of the Courts time and tax payer’s money. The decision of the High Court was unequivocal – the Minister no longer has any authority to dismiss or suspend Councilors outside the procedures laid down in the Constitution and does not have the power to appoint a “Commission” to run the affairs of cities.
In fact the Judge went s far as to say that the elected Council should return to work immediately and that the Commission had no standing in law and all their actions could be reversed.
In view of the Minister's threats to the Council in Harare, the MDC is mounting an urgent application to the High Court for an interdict to stop the Minister’s action and protect the elected Council from his predatory actions. We acknowledge that the judiciary has been consistent on the issue of non-interference by the Minister in the affairs of elected councils.
The MDC is sick and tired of Zanu PF leaders who consistently brush the new Constitution aside as “just a piece of paper” and continue to act as if the country did not have a new dispensation. The basis of all progress and stability is founded on the rule of law, the independence of the Judiciary and adherence to the precepts of the Constitution. No State can operate effectively without adherence to such principles and rebuilding confidence in Zimbabwe is critically dependent on this issue.
The other day we had the Commander of the ZDF, Gen. Constantine Chiwenga, publicly stating that “they” came with Zanu PF and they are stockholders of that political party, itself a contravention of the Constitution.
I am appealing to President Mugabe, who swore to uphold the Constitution, to ensure that his Ministers and senior officials of government uphold the supreme law of the land. The key issue at stake is Constitutionalism. The people of Zimbabwe overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to govern themselves through elected metropolitan and provincial councils. It is one thing having a Constitution, and quite another having a culture of Constitutionalism. It is with regret that so far, this government has shown it is averse to Constitutionalism, hence the delay in aligning laws to the Constitution.