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Constitutional battle: GNU principals to intervene

GOVERNMENT leaders and ministers have asked principals to the global political agreement (GPA) to define the process and direction of constitutional reform after a power struggle erupted between parliament’s select committee, the House’s administration and the Minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs, Eric Matinenga.

Impeccable sources in government said the move to refer the matter to President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara was prompted by the escalating battle between the committee, Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma and his administration, and Matinenga, which they feared would disrupt the current constitution-making process.

The battle revolves around the control of the process and material resources, which include money.
“The government leaders have referred the matter to the principals so that they can clearly define the process and direction of constitutional reform,” one of the sources said. “The fight to control the current process between the select committee, parliamentary administration and Matinenga is getting out of hand.”

The referral of the matter to the principals, analysts said, confirmed fears by civic society and other stakeholders that the current constitution-making process was a project of political parties in the GPA and that it was never meant to be people-driven.

Sources in both government and parliament told the Zimbabwe Independent that Matinenga has on several occasions clashed with House of Assembly Speaker Lovemore Moyo on the process and direction of the constitutional reform with the latter accusing the minister of trying to “hijack” the leadership of the process from parliament.

Moyo, the sources added, was adamant that the process should be led by parliament as defined in the GPA, while Matinenga insisted that as Constitutional Affairs minister he was in overall charge.

Since becoming minister, Matinenga has made several public pronouncements on the constitutional process and was one of the first government officials to announce that the Kariba draft constitution would not be the only referral document. This irked the committee, which was of the view that Matinenga was trespassing on their turf.

Besides the clash between Matinenga and Moyo, it came to the fore this week that the 25-member select committee was in a tug-of-war with Zvoma and his administration over the current process.
The committee wrote to Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara asking to have autonomy over the running and management of the process, amid reports that its secretariat — the administration of parliament — was not operating transparently.

Parliament’s administration reportedly received undisclosed sums of money from a non-governmental organisation (NGO), the Non State Actors Forum, which was used to pay allowances for 500 of the 4 000 delegates to last week’s first all-stakeholders conference without the knowledge of the committee.

Co-chairperson of the select committee Paul Mangwana was quoted in the state-controlled media this week saying they only knew of the payments through a report Zvoma wrote, but did not explain why the NGO was allowed to make the payment without the knowledge of the committee.

Mangwana said the committee needed to be autonomous as envisaged in the GPA.

“We should only report to parliament when we are through,” Mangwana was quoted as saying. “We do have our budget and finance committee but we are not holding any money. It is coming through the administration of parliament.

“We do not have our own secretariat, we are relying on staff of parliament,” he said. “This means we are not autonomous. We need to run our own affairs and not the present setup where the administration of parliament is running the show.”

The sources said Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara were expected to immediately meet and define the process and direction of the reform exercise to avoid it being stalled by power struggles.



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