ZANU PF has agreed to give in to most of the demands made by the opposition Movement for Democratic Change during the ongoing talks being medi
ated by South African President Thabo Mbeki, amid revelations that its negotiating team has made many significant concessions.
Chief among the changes which have been agreed is amendment of the notorious Public Order and Security Act and the enactment of new electoral laws. Zanu PF has also agreed with MDC negotiators to alter Constitutional Amendment No 18.
Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that Zanu PF had agreed to changes to Posa and the abrogation of the current Electoral Act to facilitate a smooth passage of the constitutional amendment through parliament. The two rival MDC factions have been calling for a new constitution but they have now agreed on three far-reaching changes to the draft.
Zanu PF chief negotiator, Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, told a round of the talks in Pretoria on September 1 and 2 that the ruling party would play ball with the MDC to create an environment for free and fair elections next year.
The sources said Chinamasa stunned the MDC delegation, made up of secretary-generals Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, when he revealed that Zanu PF was ready to accept the MDC’s demands. “Tell us what you want and we will do our best to oblige,” was his approach, the sources said.
They said it was during this meeting that Zanu PF and the MDC agreed on reforms to the electoral process to be incorporated into Constitutional Amendment No18, which was tabled in parliament on Wednesday.
The ruling party agreed on a raft of changes to create an environment for free and fair polls.
On September 5, the Zanu PF politburo discussed and adopted measures that were agreed in Pretoria. Yesterday, the Arthur Mutambara-led formation of the MDC met in Harare and its national council adopted the proposed amendments to the Bill. The Morgan Tsvangirai camp is yet to meet and ratify the changes although observers believe there is little for them left to object to.
Zanu PF and the MDC agreed that the issue of a new constitution was no longer a priority considering the time left before the elections.
Both parties resolved to abolish the appointment of 10 MPs to the House of Assembly by the president, meaning that all the proposed 210 Lower House lawmakers would have to be directly elected. The senate would now be composed of 93 members, up from the proposed 84. Of the 93, only five would be presidential appointees — two representing Harare and Bulawayo while the outstanding three would represent special interest groups.
Currently the senate is made up of 66 members. Provincial governors and traditional chiefs would also be appointed to the senate.
The parties have also agreed that all the three elections — local government, presidential and parliamentary, will be held concurrently on one day.
The sources said the negotiating teams clinched a deal that another amendment be made to the Bill to clearly state that constituency delimitation variation should be restricted to 20%, instead of allowing movements of up to 25%, to avoid gerrymandering.
The agreed amendments to the Bill would be tabled during the committee stage in parliament on Tuesday.
The MDC proposed amendments to the Electoral Act which the negotiators agreed was a “mess”. They accepted the need to craft a new law altogether.
The parties were reportedly working on drafts of the new electoral law, which they will deliberate on soon.
Perhaps the most far-reaching aspect agreed to during the discussions is the proposed amendment to the draconian Posa. The aim will be to remove sections that inhibit public gathering without police notification and canvassing for political support.
Two years ago this paper quoted Chinamasa declaring that Posa would not be amended since it was an important bulwark against those who wanted to effect regime change. The government has since 2000 used Posa to break up opposition rallies and to prevent political meetings organised by civic groups.
Two other major items on the talks agenda — media laws and the political climate in the country — are yet to be discussed even though indications were that the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act could also be amended extensively.