PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe has come under fire for failing to appoint a substantive Minister of Justice when he did a mini-Cabinet reshuffle on Monday.
The Justice ministry is mandated to spearhead the re-alignment of about 400 laws with the new Constitution that was effected in 2013. Vice-President Emmerson Mnangagwa was the Justice minister until December last year when he was appointed Mugabe’s deputy.
His former deputy Fortune Chasi was ousted for allegedly siding with former Vice-President Joice Mujuru who was kicked out last year for allegedly trying to remove Mugabe from power, leaving the ministry without a supervisor.
In an interview with NewsDay yesterday, civil society organisations and opposition parties said Mugabe was proving to be insincere in as far as realignment of the laws was concerned.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku labelled the reshuffle “window dressing” and meaningless as Mugabe failed to attend to the Justice ministry.
“The failure to name a fully-fledged Minister of Justice shows that the President is not serious about the realignment of the laws,” Madhuku said.
He said Mnangagwa has shown that he had no time for the ministry, but for his VP post where he will be moving around reading speeches.
Deputy Chief Justice Luke Malaba recently ruled that Mnangagwa ceased to be substantive Justice minister in December when he assumed the Vice-Presidency.
“We note with concern that the President has decided to leave the Ministry of Justice without a minister and still under the charge of Vice-President Mnangagwa,” ZimRights chair Passmore Nyakureba said.
“We reiterate that the Justice ministry is the most critical ministry in this country in so far as the post-31 March 2013 era is concerned. It is this ministry which has to bring laws to Parliament for purposes of alignment with the Constitution.”
Nyakureba added: “It is really an abdication of his constitutional duties for the President to keep holding the alignment of laws with the Constitution to ransom by running a government without a Justice minister and a Parliament without leader of government business.”
Former Justice deputy minister and MDC-T spokesperson Obert Gutu said it was shocking that Mugabe would leave an important ministry without a shepherd at a crucial juncture.
“It’s simply incredulous that such an important portfolio like the Ministry of Justice still doesn’t have a minister nor a deputy minister!
And to think that more than 400 pieces of legislation are yet to be aligned to the new Constitution of Zimbabwe — surely, this boggles the mind,” Gutu said.
“Anyway, let’s just hope that a substantive Minister of Justice will soon be appointed since the Cabinet reshuffle seems to be happening in dribs and drabs. It is being done in instalments, it would appear.”
MDC Renewal Team spokesperson Jacob Mafume said what Mugabe was doing was tantamount to serious dereliction of duty.
“The Ministry of Justice has the all-important task of realignment of the laws to the Constitution. It being left without a minister shows that this government is wedded to its old ways. It’s not only gross dereliction of duty, but a constitutional violation in our view. The Vice-President seems to want to have the ministry for the sole purposes of cracking jokes in Parliament as leader of the house,” Mafume said.
The newly-formed Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe said it was disturbed by Mugabe’s glaring reluctance to appoint a full Minister of Justice to effectively realign the laws as required by the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The party said it was worried that Mugabe continued to rotate ministers without focusing on the key ministry that superintends the alignment of laws, adding that it was a plot to by-pass the will of the people who soundly endorsed the new constitution two years ago.
But, Zanu PF chief whip Jorum Gumbo confirmed that Chasi was now in the Parliamentary Legal Committee in a move set to speed up the alignment process.
“It is normal that Parliament business is to make policies that can also be changed by the same Parliament. We have had some instances where the committee could not have a quorum but the addition of a new member (Chasi) will likely see some movements and things being brought to Parliament,” he said.
Commenting on his appointment on social media, Chasi said: “The above (legal) committee is a creature of the Constitution. Its primary purpose is to scrutinise all laws, from general notices, statutory instruments and Acts of Parliament, to ensure that they are fully compliant with the Constitution.” newsday