HomePoliticsParly to start Public Hearings on new Constitution

Parly to start Public Hearings on new Constitution

THE 25-member parliamentary select committee on the constitution will from next Saturday embark on provincial public hearings on the crafting of a new constitution amid reports that US$36 million is needed to bankroll the process.


Parliament’s Standing Rules and Orders Committee this week approved the US$36 million budget for the constitution-making process and forwarded it to government, which is battling to mobilise financial aid to revive the country’s comatose economy. Donors have expressed interest in funding the process.

Co-chairpersons of the committee –– Paul Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora –– on Wednesday said it was the prerogative of government to source the funds for the cumbersome process that would result in a new supreme law for the country by September next year.

“As a select committee we have come up with a working budget for the whole process and the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders has since approved it,” Mangwana said. “At present the draft budget is with the government and it is yet to be approved.”

According to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed last September by President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, the select committee should convene an “all-stakeholders” conference within three months after its appointment.

The public consultation process, the pact reads, should be completed no later than four months after the stakeholders conference.

“The draft constitution shall be tabled within three months of completion of the public consultation process to a second all-stakeholders conference,” reads the GPA.

“The draft constitution and the accompanying report shall be tabled before parliament within one month of the second all-stakeholders conference.” The draft and the accompanying report would then be debated and if necessary amended in parliament within one month, before it is gazetted and a referendum conducted within three months.

Mangwana said the select committee had decided to embark on provincial public hearings starting on June 13. The hearing would last 30 days.

Zimbabweans in the diaspora, he said, would be consulted through embassies, but it would be subject to the availability of recourses.  A website would also be created for them to contribute their views.

The views gathered during the hearings would be tabled at the first all-stakeholders conference in July to be attended by over 5 000 delegates drawn from the country’s 10 provinces.

Mangwana said the hearings would take place at ward level in the country’s 210 House of Assembly constituencies.

“On average each constituency has 10 wards and a minimum of three days of consultations a ward would be set aside,” he said. “This should provide ample time to gather the people’s views.”

The views would be forwarded to thematic committees that would sift through the data and come up with a draft constitution within three months, which will be tabled before a second all-stakeholders conference.

The draft and the accompanying report would then be debated and if necessary amended in parliament within one month, before it is gazetted and a referendum conducted within three months.

In the event that the draft is approved in the referendum, it shall be gazetted within a month of the date of the plebiscite and should be introduced in parliament not later than a month after the expiration of a period of 30 days from the date of the gazetting.

Asked on the relevance of the Kariba draft which is stated in the GPA as a reference document, Mwonzora said it was “just like any other document that has been submitted to us for consideration”.

Mwonzora said the committee has since its appointment in April received draft constitutions from the Margaret Dongo-led Front for Democracy in Zimbabwe, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), MDC-T and Law Students Association.

Earlier in the week, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga had told journalists in the capital that when Mugabe said the Kariba draft should be the basis for consultations “he was just expression his opining which is not binding”.

Mugabe recently told his Zanu PF politburo that the Kariba draft, which leaves the powers of the president in tact, would be the basis of the constitution-making process.

Mugabe wants the Kariba draft because it retains the executive presidency.

Section 78 of the secret Kariba draft says executive authority would be vested in the president and cabinet which is similar to the current Lancaster House constitution’s Section 7 before the 19th amendment.

The president would remain the head of state and government, as well as commander in chief of the defence forces.

Section 88 of the Kariba draft says there will be two vice president but does not have a provision for a prime minister.

Zimbabwe is currently governed under the 1979 constitution agreed at the Lancaster House talks in London.

The constitution has been amended 19 times since the country’s Independence in 1980.

An attempt to introduce a new constitution between 1999 and 2000 failed after the NCA and other civil society organisations, backed by a nascent MDC, successfully campaigned against a government-sponsored draft.

A fierce political battle is expected when the draft goes to a referendum, with the NCA and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions having already said they would campaign against it because it will not be a people-driven product.

However, Mwonzora was optimistic that the draft would get the nod of Zimbabweans at a referendum.
“The difference between 1999 and 2009 is that we have an inclusive government. We have a major political force which was in opposition, now in government,” he said.

BY NQOBILE BHEBHE

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