Zanu PF, MDC sign new constitution

THE ruling Zanu PF and opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have agreed on a draft constitution which emerged from ongoing talks to resolve Zimbabwe’s crisis, it has been confirmed.


The final draft constitution &

#8212; a product of intense negotiations by the two parties both in Zimbabwe and South Africa — was signed by Zanu PF negotiators Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, and MDC delegates Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti, as well as the South African mediator and chairman Sydney Mufamadi on a houseboat provided by the state at Kariba on September 30. The event was described as “cheerful”.


However, Zanu PF and the MDC have not yet agreed on changes to the electoral laws, security legislation, and media restrictions. The parties are still haggling over these issues, sources said, as time runs out before elections next March.


The talks, expected to formally end on October 30, are now way behind schedule. Negotiations will now resume on October 29 and run up to November 2. More meetings will be held after that.


“We have agreed on the new draft constitution, but we have not reached an agreement on the electoral laws, security legislation, and media laws because the issues at stake are complicated and there are disagreements,” a source said. “We haven’t discussed the political climate. There is some progress but there are also hurdles on the way.”The deadline will now certainly expire with an agreement only on one item on the agenda, the constitution. The other remaining four agenda items are not yet settled. The negotiators are now also discussing an economic rescue package to bail out the crumbling economy. Donors met two weeks ago in the Netherlands to discuss aid for Zimbabwe tied to talks.


Sources said the new draft constitution, a hybrid document from three different drafts — the government-sponsored draft of 2000, the National Constitutional Assembly’s draft, and the Zanu PF/MDC document of 2003/2004 — would be taken to the negotiators’ principals and their parties for approval soon.


After that it would then be implemented in terms of agreed transitional mechanisms if endorsed. Negotiators have been discussing transitional procedures in the event that their principals and parties approve the draft. Chinamasa is expected to brief a Zanu PF politburo meeting on progress in the talks so far on Wednesday next week. MDC delegates are expected to also brief their party soon.


Sources said the talks are now at a critical stage because the new draft will either be endorsed or rejected by the parties and their leaders. The 2003/2004 Chinamasa/Ncube draft was rejected by the parties.


This is where the real problem lies, sources said. The Zanu PF politburo, chaired by President Robert Mugabe, on September 5 took a position that although they should make concessions in the negotiations, they would not agree to a new constitution, especially before the elections. MDC leaders have been claiming there would be a new constitution before the polls.


Zanu PF also resolved that it would make a few insignificant concessions which would not affect its grip on power and disturb its preparations for the elections in March next year.


Evidence that Zanu PF is now playing games with the MDC mounted this week when the ruling party asked for the postponement of talks ahead of the deadline. In reaction, the MDC is now threatening to pull out of talks if repression — as shown by sweeping arrests of opposition activists this week — continues. MDC leaders now say that Zanu PF is negotiating in bad faith, something they were in denial about only a few weeks ago. — Staff Writer.