HomeCommentCandid Comment: Constitutional reform faces Collapse

Candid Comment: Constitutional reform faces Collapse

AS the constitutional reform process rumbles on amid growing divisions between the two main political parties driving the exercise, it has now become clear the country is heading for a dead-end unless a major rescue operation occurs.


At the beginning of the process, we were at pains to point out that the exercise was deeply flawed and lacked legitimacy and the credibility that it ought to have in order to succeed. A defective process can’t lead to a desired outcome, critics of this process argued.

Civic groups and commentators noted the process was partisan and myopic because it was driven by self-interested parties pursuing narrow power politics. They argued MPs, who lead the current process, are not representative enough to preside over the process as they are drawn from only three parties representing a narrow section of society and would necessarily be driven by those narrow, short-term interests.
Besides, MPs are vulnerable to political manipulation and may only write a constitution designed to serve their partisan agendas.
MPs are not elected to write constitutions, but represent their constituencies and legislate. All over the world credible and durable constitutions are made via constitutional assemblies or such broadly constituted bodies.
The legitimacy and credibility of a constitutional process and constitution itself is measured by the degree to which the process is participatory, open and democratic. The current process is anything but participatory, open and democratic. However, all those voicing concern over this process have been drowned out by vocal but naive party hacks and apologists working in cahoots with parties to impose a terrible draft constitution on the country. As people now know, the controversial Kariba draft constitution is not worth the paper it is written on. It basically leaves the current imperial presidency in place, and along with it the existing power structure.
Under the Kariba draft the president basically retains all his overbearing powers, including those of making numerous appointments. These sorts of things were done away with by the 2000 draft that was rejected by voters. In others words, the Kariba draft is evidently worse than the 2000 draft.
However, Zanu PF and the two MDC factions agreed in terms of the Global Political Agreement to use the Kariba draft as a basis for a new constitution.
But the parties are now fighting each other over how to proceed and the chickens are coming home to roost.
The MDC-T wants to dump the Kariba draft, while Zanu PF is clinging onto it. The fight is going to get nastier and dirtier as the process unfolds. This is what some party loyalists and sycophants failed to anticipate at the start.
The reason the MDC-T is trying to abandon the draft is because it has now realised the shoddy document can’t find public purchase and sticking to it despite swelling opposition will further alienate it from its civic society allies.
Already there have been public spats between the MDC-T and the NCA and ZCTU over this process and the Kariba draft. But instead of telling its allies that there is need to find common ground, the MDC-T is shifting its position to occupy the same space which the NCA and other groups wanted to as part of their strategy to mount a challenge against the process.
If the MDC-T succeeds in its manoeuvre, the NCA and other groups could be rendered impotent and irrelevant.
However, what will sabotage the current constitution-making process is not going to the row between the MDC-T and its civic allies. It is going to the fight between the MDC-T and Zanu PF. That’s where the process is likely to fail.
As we report on the front page of this paper today, the tussle between Zanu PF and the MDC-T over the constitutional reform process is going to rapidly intensify into a crisis after both parties this week made opposing resolutions on how to proceed.
As part of resolutions of its extraordinary National Executive meeting held on Tuesday, the MDC-T decided: “To reject any attempts to have the “Kariba draft”, one of many drafts available, adopted as the Alpha and Omega of the constitution-making process”.
“The MDC believes in a truly people-driven constitution-making process where the unfettered will of the people must be reflected,” the party said.
The day after, on Wednesday, Zanu PF resolved at its central committee meeting it would stick with the Kariba draft. In fact, the party wants the Kariba draft adopted wholesale. Some senior Zanu PF members actually suggested that the party should withdraw from the process if the MDC is now “shifting goalposts”.
After this was rejected by President Robert Mugabe, the party then took a position that it will shoot down the new draft in parliament unless it comes undiluted in the form of the Kariba document.
The MDC factions don’t have a two-thirds majority required to pass through the draft. Zanu PF has got to agree for that to happen. In this case, Zanu PF has resolved to block whatever draft is brought to parliament if it does not meet its expectations.
Mugabe wants the Kariba draft because it leaves his powers intact and does not stop him from running for office again. It is not clear why the MDC in the first place agreed to that draft. Whatever the reason, the MDC now has a problem of how to dump the draft when it is part of the political agreement without collapsing the process.  
With all these contradictions, manoeuvres and infighting, the process is now heading for failure. Only new compromises, which are unlikely, can save it.

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