The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade says the constitutional processes and the African Union (AU) processes to ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance has been completed.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa, as one of his first acts after assuming office, signed the Charter on the 21st March 2018 at an AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in Kigali, Rwanda.

As stated by Veritas, a  constitutional watchdog President Mnangagwa’s signature of the Charter did not, however, make it legally binding on Zimbabwe as a State party, either in terms of the Constitution or in terms of the Charter.

The Charter states that there must be completion of all constitutional processes in Zimbabwe Charter the country could ratify the Charter, and its Constitution in section 327 required both Houses of Parliament to approve the Charter.

Obtaining Parliamentary approval
Veritas lobbied to have this done before the elections and on 8th May 2018 the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs signalled the Government’s intention to seek this approval by tabling the Charter in the National Assembly for the information of MPs.

Unfortunately, however, early approval by the National Assembly and the Senate was prevented by the early cessation of Parliamentary sittings in June, ahead of the 30th July harmonised elections.

Then, the new Parliament was inevitably busy with other business, including preparations for and passing of the 2019 Budget.

Veritas lobbied the Speaker and the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs in order to ensure that the constitutional requirement of Parliamentary approval of the Charter would not be overlooked when the new Parliament had the opportunity to do so–see Bill Watch 13/2019 of 12th March 2019.

Eventually, a year after the President had signed the Charter, resolutions by both Houses of Parliament approving the Charter were passed during March 2019.

Depositing Zimbabwe’s Instrument of Ratification of the Charter

The Charter itself requires a country seeking to become a State party to the Charter and bound by the Charter, Zimbabwe must follow up the Parliamentary approval of the Charter by formally ratifying the Charter and depositing the instrument of ratification with the Chairperson of the African Union.

“In our bulletin reflecting on the International Day of Democracy September last year Veritas expressed concern that Zimbabwe had still not ratified the Charter.

“We pointed out that it was already a long time since it had both been signed by the President and approved by Parliament. After further lobbying that procedure has now been completed. President Mnangagwa has signed the Instrument of Ratification and Zimbabwe’s Ambassador to the African Union has deposited it with the Chairperson of the African Union recently.

“Upon the deposit of its Instrument of Ratification Zimbabwe became a State Party bound by the Charter,” says Veritas.

The Charter was adopted on 30 January 2007 at an AU Assembly of Heads of States and Government.

The Charter draws inspiration from the Constitutive Act of the AU and seeks to promote and emphasise “the significance of good governance, popular participation, the rule of law and human rights, ”and speaks strongly against “unconstitutional changes of governments” and encourages instead,

“… change of power based on the holding of regular, free, fair and transparent elections conducted by competent, independent, and impartial national electoral bodies,” noted Veritas.

A majority of AU States and most SADC States have both signed and ratified the Charter and it is becoming the accepted blueprint for democracy, elections and governance for successful African States.

The Charter was adopted by the African Union in 2007 as a roadmap to promote better governance in Africa. It required 15 countries to ratify it in order for it to become operational [Article 48], which did not occur until February 2012.

The Charter’s scope is broad, as indicated by its title and also by its Chapter headings, which include:
• Democracy, Rule of Law and Human Rights
• The Culture of Democracy and Peace
• Democratic Institutions
• Democratic Elections
• Sanctions in Cases of Unconstitutional Changes of Government
• Political, Economic and Social Governance.