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Rescue package tied to talks

Dumisani Muleya

THE ruling Zanu PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have taken the ongoing talks to resolve the current crisis a s

tep further by agreeing on outstanding components of the final draft constitution.

This came as it emerged that the Like-Minded Donor Group (LMDG), which is made up of 10 bilateral donors — Canada, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Norway, Switzerland, Germany, the United Kingdom and Australia — met in Holland last week to discuss a proposed economic rescue package for Zimbabwe in the event that the talks succeed.

Zanu PF and the MDC have amended the agenda of the talks to include a rescue package item, sources said.

The negotiations agenda has also been expanded to encompass a transitional mechanism item for adopting the new constitution if the whole process leads to that.

This is in addition to the five main items — a new constitution, electoral laws, security legislation, media laws and the political climate — already on the agenda.

The sources said the donors agreed at the meeting they would provide an urgent economic rescue package for Zimbabwe via the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) — which is behind the current dialogue between Zanu PF and the MDC — under the auspices of the World Bank.

Sadc has promised to bail out Zimbabwe but does not have the resources to do so.

LMDG countries have now resolved to chip in and help the country out of its economic crisis.

Zimbabwe is facing a deep economic crisis triggered by government’s disastrous policies and gross mismanagement.

The country has no foreign currency reserves to talk about and faces acute shortages of fuel, electricity, food, drugs, and basic essential commodities.

Shops are largely empty and people have resorted to buying from neighbouring countries.

Zanu PF and the MDC two weeks ago agreed on a new draft constitution at a meeting in Kariba under the chairmanship of South African President Thabo Mbeki’s envoy, Sydney Mufamadi.

After the agreement, the draft was initialled by Zanu PF negotiators, Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, and the MDC delegates Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti.

Mufamadi, the sources said, also initialled the draft as Mbeki is the guarantor of the document.

Zanu PF and the MDC had already “substantially agreed” on the new draft before they recently passed Constitutional Amendment No 18 to introduce controversial political and electoral law reforms ahead of next year’s defining joint elections, although they still had to negotiate several sticking points in the draft.

The sources said almost all outstanding issues have now been cleared and the process is moving fast to the next stage.

After this, the new constitution, a hybrid document from three drafts — the government-sponsored draft in 2000, the National Constitutional Assembly’s draft, and the Zanu PF/MDC document of 2003/2004 — would be taken to the negotiators’ principals and parties for approval. The negotiating parties are expected to finish the talks by October 30.

Chinamasa is expected to brief the Zanu PF politburo meeting on October 24 about the progress at that time.

The politburo was initially expected to meet last week, but the meeting was postponed.

Chinamasa last briefed the politburo on the issue on September 5 where it was agreed that Zanu PF should only agree to concessions which do not shake the foundations of its power.

It is said President Robert Mugabe reiterated at that meeting that his party would not accept a new constitution.

This means that the new draft might actually be blocked when it comes to Mugabe and Zanu PF as happened in 2004 with the Chinamasa/Ncube draft.

Sources in the ruling party say Zanu PF wants the new draft constitution to be introduced after the elections, while the MDC wants it before the polls.

MDC leaders recently publicly claimed that there would be a new constitution in place before the coming elections without saying whether or not such a constitution would be implemented ahead of the polls or after.

Sources close to the negotiations said Zanu PF and the MDC held several meetings between themselves and also under the mediation of South Africans two weeks ago at different venues in Harare and other parts of the country.

After dealing with several electoral issues, which Zanu PF says were very urgent, the parties are currently engaged on other items under “Track II” in the dialogue.

Track I dealt with changes to the current constitution.

Track II is focusing on the constitution, security legislation, media laws and political climate, including a range of issues such as the militarisation of state institutions, the role of chiefs and sanctions.

The MDC expects to get a new constitution and amendments to the Electoral Act, Public Order and Security Act, Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Local Government Act, and the Traditional Leaders Act, among other things.

After making concessions on the constitutional amendment, Zanu PF expects to get backing for scrapping sanctions and foreign radio broadcasts from stations such as the Voice of America’s Studio 7 and SW Radio Africa, currently broadcasting into Zimbabwe.

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