Mugabe ropes in PM in poll plot

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and his Zanu PF negotiators are plotting to dissolve Copac and its management committee so that they can hijack the constitution-making process to enable them to slot in the party’s controversial amendments into the draft constitution, in a bid to save their collapsing election plans.

Report by  Brian Chitemba

This is part of a series of measures Mugabe and his close lieutenants
have adopted as they prepare to go for broke during the campaigns for the watershed elections next year. Zanu PF’s shadowy mobilisation committee, which meets every Wednesday, came up with a wide range of campaign strategies.

However, Mugabe is reportedly mulling manoeuvres on the draft constitution which could cause serious problems and end up inviting Sadc intervention. Mugabe’s main worry is to retain his imperial powers curtailed in the Copac draft. The politburo held marathon day and night meetings lasting about 50 hours battling to restore sweeping executive powers.

After the politburo’s 266 amendments were rejected by the MDC formations, Mugabe and Zanu PF hardliners changed tact from public debate to clandestinely hijacking the constitution-making process from the political parties to make it a government-driven process.

This would allow Mugabe, assisted by deputy premier Arthur Mutambara, to pressure Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to succumb to his demands.

Already it seems the principals are cutting deals without their parties’ full knowledge as shown by their agreement on by-elections recently. On Monday, the principals agreed to dissolve Copac and all its structures and take control of the constitution-making process, a move which fits into Mugabe’s grand plan and elections designs.

Although the politburo agreed the raft of proposed amendments would be taken to the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference tentatively slated for mid-month, Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa last week told the Copac management committee the stakeholders’ indaba must not be allowed to change anything.

Insiders say the plan is to ensure that Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara sit down to virtually rewrite the draft.

MDC leader Welshman Ncube would be excluded if the process becomes government-sponsored and not led by parliament as stipulated in the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

The other key player Zanu PF wants to freeze out of the process is MDC-T secretary-general and lead negotiator Tendai Biti whom some in the top echelons of his own party also want sidelined for introducing the running mates clause. In a confluence of interests, Mugabe and Tsvangirai both appear to be against the running mates provision. If Copac and the management committee are dissolved, Ncube — not wanted for his persistent demands for devolution — and Biti would be shut out.

Mugabe’s plot thickened this week at the principals’ meeting on Monday where he agreed with Tsvangirai and Mutambara to take over the process.

“The principals no longer want Copac to handle the constitution-making process, but want to make it a government-driven exercise so that they determine the final outcome,” said the high-level source. “They want to shut out Ncube who is seen as a big problem and also freeze out people like Biti.”

After Sadc’s recent Maputo resolution that Ncube should attend principals’ meetings, Mugabe agreed with Tsvangirai he would attend party political meetings of leaders to discuss issues to do with the GPA, constitution and elections.

However, Mugabe is still barring Ncube from the meetings. Matters came to a head on Tuesday when Ncube, accompanied by his party secretary-general and chief negotiator, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, decided after the cabinet meeting to go and confront Mugabe over the issue.

Sources said when Ncube and Misihairabwi-Mushonga arrived at Mugabe’s office, they found in the waiting room Tsvangirai, Mutambara, Chinamasa and Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga going in to see Mugabe.

They said Ncube then enquired from Mugabe through his aide Lawrence Kamwi if he was welcome, but was dispatched to another waiting room to allow Mugabe and his delegation to discuss first on their own.
Sources said the principals, led by Mugabe, indicated their plans to disband Copac and take over the constitution-making process. However, Matinenga is said to have challenged the move saying it was a blatant violation of the GPA.

“The principals tasked Matinenga to sit down with Chinamasa to come up with ways of ensuring the constitution-making process is taken over by the executive but Matinenga, who is a lawyer, declined,” a source said.

After some heated exchanges, it is said Matinenga was practically kicked out of the meeting for refusing to be part of the Mugabe-led plot.

Ncube was later invited and given an explanation which he said he did not understand, although sources say it was clear there was intrigue to sideline him and other unwanted players.

After the dramatic events, Ncube went to brief his senior party officials about them.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga confirmed the briefing, but refused to give details, saying she is out of the country on government business.

These events are said to have shocked senior MDC-T and MDC leaders who now fear Mugabe could be allowed to hijack the constitution-making process at the level of principals.

They also fear Tsvangirai is in an invidious position, given he is already facing pressure from his Matabeleland region strongholds after he told a pastors’ meeting in Bulawayo last week he feared devolution would be used as a springboard for secession, a sentiment expressed by Mugabe and senior Zanu PF officials.

Mugabe has strongly opposed devolution, claiming it would divide Zimbabwe and give centrifugal political forces in Matabeleland new momentum.

Matabeleland civil society activists are threatening to pressure the all-stakeholders’ conference to incorporate devolution in the new constitution or launch a campaign of defiance.

Ncube is now running his campaign on devolution which seems to have given him new-found impetus. The Zanu PF plot could unleash divisions in the three parties involved in the constitution-making process and invite Sadc intervention.


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