Organisers hijacked people’s constitutional conference

LAST Wednesday, as I was driving into the parking lot of parliament, I stopped to greet Honourable Paurina Mpariwa.


She wound up her window, deliberately ignored me and refused to speak to me, let alone acknowledge me. I am told that she is upset with me for her belief that I had a role in the disturbances that occurred at the Constitutional Conference last Monday.

I got terribly upset with Honourable Lovemore Moyo (Speaker of Parliament) on both Monday and Tuesday. I spent the afternoon of Tuesday writing a scathing letter to him. In my view, the letter chronicled my perceptions of the shortcomings in the arrangements for the all stakeholders’ conference.
When a close friend and colleague read the draft, he said it was too personal, insulting, abusive and emotional. I responded by saying that President Robert Mugabe had talked about the GPA coming from the heart; therefore my letter, too, was from the heart. He calmly told me that I was quoting the president out of context, and that I should take the whole import of his message from Monday night’s press conference.
He was right. Emotion had taken over reason.  He assisted me to see that. I have therefore not yet sent the letter.
Minister Mpariwa is not only a good colleague and friend, she is my homey from Zvimba. I believe that she is upset with me; so might a lot of people be. There are also a lot of people that are upset with Moyo, the administration at Parliament, or the Select Committee.
I am therefore writing this article to assist all those who are upset to enable their reasoning to take over their emotions. On both sides. To do that, I will talk about the events leading up to and involving Monday, and then analyse those events in the context of President Mugabe’s message on Monday night.
At the first and only joint caucus that I attended in preparation for the National All Stakeholder Conference on the constitution- making process, I made a presentation of six points which included requesting that the appropriate logistical arrangements be assured for delegates, and that the conference be presided over by the three principals to the Global Political Agreement.
My protestations around the logistical arrangements at the joint parliamentary caucus were based on my extensive experience in managing such major events in my capacity as the Zanu National Director for Youth. I have been a member of Zanu PF’s National Preparatory Technical Committee for its annual conferences since 2003. I have directed and coordinated the 21st February Movement Celebrations in Kutama (the President’s 80th birthday in 2004), Marondera (2005), Mutare (2006), Gweru (2007), Beitbridge (2008) and Chinhoyi (2009). I have also coordinated and directed the 3rd Zanu PF National Youth Congress held in 2004 which was attended by 4 500 delegates, as well as the highly successful First National Youths and Students Convention held at the HICC in June 2008, and attended by over 6 000 delegates. I knew what I was talking about.
The framework for managing the above Zanu PF events involves 12 committees made up of 10 – 15 members in each committee. I was convinced that the 12-member select committee was inadequate for managing such an event considering that it was catering for delegates from different organisations. Some of the select committee’s members were too busy with their other duties (eg ministers). That is why I was extremely vocal at the joint caucus.
On Monday when the conference was due to start there was logistical chaos. The accreditation had been such a shambles that it was impossible to ascertain whether the persons attending the conference were bona fide. Arrangements for accommodation had been so inadequate that there were delegates that had slept in corridors, offices and in the open (mind you we are in the middle of winter!). Some delegates had not had a meal since they left their homes the previous day. It was sad to note that the fears I had voiced during the joint parliamentary caucus were playing out for real.
Although delegates were upset and frustrated, they were excited by the prospect of seeing their leaders. United in front of the people of Zimbabwe, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara represented such hope for the future that the physical hardships of lack of accommodation, food and ablution facilities could be ignored. People felt that they were about to make history together with their heroes. They could imagine the stories they would tell when they got back home; stories about how they, together with their heroes, engaged and discussed the future of Zimbabwe.  
As I walked into the conference room, I noticed that there was no national flag. Alarm bells rang in my head. Half an hour later, a huffing and puffing hotel official brought a solitary flag into the conference room and placed it on the podium. Things appeared as if there were getting back on track. We settled in to wait for the official opening.
The dignitaries then walked in and took seats at the podium. Lo and behold, all seats at the podium were filled. None of the three principals to the GPA was amongst the dignitaries. There were no empty chairs reserved for anyone else to come and join the dignitaries. Several questions came to my mind. Whose function was I attending? Who was presiding over this process? What was everyone else thinking of inside that auditorium?
The master of ceremonies then came and announced that the official opening would be conducted later and requested that the opening prayer be said. After the prayer, proceedings then started. No national anthem was sung. I interjected from the floor. Several other people interjected too. The master of ceremonies ignored those interjections.
The people then took over. There was a spontaneous singing of the national anthem. Proceedings then continued. I then received a text message indicating the president (who was billed to officially open the programme) was not coming since he had not been invited.
That, together with the deliberate attempt to ignore the national anthem, was totally unacceptable to me. To this date, the ignoring of the national anthem and the absence of the three principles of the GPA at this event are unacceptable. Irrespective of how much the three principles may attempt to gloss over and cover up these monumental blunders for those responsible, it is unacceptable. Sevakuru, vanoyedza kuyananisa, asi pane anenge ashaisha.
I had asked some colleagues to update me on what was transpiring. As we were talking outside, we heard noise and commotion in the conference hall. When we returned, there was singing in the hall. Word had reached the delegates that the three principals of the GPA were not part of the process. The disruptions were, obviously, a manifestation that these three men, His Excellency President Robert Mugabe, the Right Honourable Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, and the Honourable Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, are truly the owners of this process. The people were protesting the hijacking of the people’s constitutional project by individuals that they did not know. The people were angry, frustrated and felt betrayed by the organisers.
I felt for the people. I felt with the people. I was at one with their protestations.
President Mugabe, that Monday night, indicated that “we are Zimbabweans, Zimbabweans with one flag, one national anthem”.  These symbols of unity were deliberately ignored by the organisers of the event. Worse still, the three principals of the GPA personify the united body politic of Zimbabwe. Their absence at the event was catastrophic. This is further illustrated by the fact that, after their joint press conference, the proceedings of the following day were not disrupted.
So I say to my Ambuya Paurina, yes you may be upset with me. However, my actions, the actions of some of my compatriots on all sides of our political divide, were the actions of people who were angered by the deliberate downplaying of the three majors symbols of unity that are currently with us. These are the national flag, the national anthem, and the three principles of the GPA.
Our protests are, in essence, a clamour for unity. Simunye.

Patrick Zhuwao is MP for Zvimba East and Zanu PF National Youth Director.

BY PATRICK ZHUWAO

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