Constitution-making starts under cloud of suspicion

THE constitution-making process got underway this week with most people who attended provincial consultative hearings expressing fear that politicians will hijack the process.


The suspicious public who came from various social, businesses, traditional and political groups demanded to know how the 25-member parliamentary select committee to spearhead the process would work with ordinary Zimbabweans to craft the new constitution.

Provincial hearings were held on Wednesday in Harare, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland West and Manicaland. On Saturday, the hearings will take place in Bulawayo, Masvingo, Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands.

In Harare, people questioned members of the select committee on the guarantees in place that politicians would not tamper with their views in coming up with the draft constitution and whether Zimbabweans in the diaspora will be allowed to participate in the process.
Participants at the hearing also questioned the committee on the source of funds to bankroll the labourious exercise.
Civil society groups like the National Constitutional Assembly, the Zimbabwe National Students Union and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions have said they would oppose the constitution-making process because it is not “people-driven”.
Responding to some of the questions, co-chairperson of the select committee, Douglas Mwonzora, said MPs and other stakeholders in the process would not deliberate on views from the people in private, adding that an international body would be set up to monitor the transparency and accountability of the process.
He said MPs constituted a small percentage of the stakeholders in the process, thus would not dominate the process.
 “An all-stakeholders’ conference to be held on July 10 to 12 will have 5 000 delegates from 10 provinces, each province will be represented by 500 people,” Mwonzora said. “There are 210 MPs and if the delegation will constitute 5 000 people the MPs will only make four percent of the all-stakeholders’ conference. It’s not correct to say all stakeholders will be dominated by MPs.”
The conference will form 12 thematic sub-committees consisting of 40 people working on a certain subject on the constitution.
Mwonzora said: “For example, a sub-committee will work on the land, talking about issues of the land that would have come out of the people. MPs will constitute 30% while stakeholders will be 70%. Civil society dominates and not parliament.”
During the consultation phase teams, mostly from civil society, would for four months consult with the public and each constituency will have 30 days of consultation with the people where each ward will hold three public meetings.
“Different ideas from the consultations will be sent to the thematic committees and for three months the committee will be debating with the help of experts. Each thematic committee will come out with a report which will be made into three copies,” Mwonzora explained. “We will join all their reports and make a draft constitution which will be then taken to the second all-stakeholders conference for debate. No one can change the people’s views. The three copies will be the basis of any future dissension.”
He said parliament would debate on the reports of the select committee and not the draft committee.
When asked why there were plans to use the Kariba draft constitution as a reference document, Mwonzora said: “The draft is one of the proposed constitutions among the NCA draft, the MDC draft, Margaret Dongo’s Four Day draft and the “Zimbabwe We Want” document.
“What is happening is that because there was a lot of mystery surrounding them we decided to publish them. All the drafts are going to be circulated and their ideas only will be brought on the table.”
Mwonzora said a website for Zimbabweans in the diaspora has been put in place and consultations with them would be done through it.
The people questioned the select committee why there was an 18-month timeframe to come up with the draft supreme law, to which the lawyer replied: “If we are to change the timeframe, then we have to open up negotiations (of the global political agreement), which you know takes time. This project is time-bound.”

BY WONGAI ZHANGAZHA