‘GNU parties scuttle constitutional reforms’

WITH four days shy of celebrating the first anniversary of the historic Global Political Agreement (GPA), the inclusive government is showing little commitment to the constitution-making process.


Analysts say there are deliberate moves from all the political parties in the unity government to scuttle the constitutional reform process.
The process has stalled with Zanu PF and the MDC formation led by Morgan Tsvangirai resorting to mudslinging.
Finger pointing has become the order of the day, with Zanu PF and the MDC-T throwing mud at each other, in the process confusing millions of Zimbabweans who have been promised a new constitution by the end of 2010.
MDC-T has blamed Zanu PF for deliberately delaying the process by putting spanners in the works at every stage, while Zanu PF says the delays are from the MDC-T which controls parliament that administers the process and the ministry of Finance, which is supposed to provide the funds.
Zanu PF secretary for administration Didymus Mutasa said Zanu PF was not the only actor in the process.
“The accusations that Zanu PF is the cause of the delay are totally untrue,” said Mutasa. “It is the MDC-T through the parliament administration that is deliberately causing the problems that are delaying the process but instead it is accusing Zanu PF, as if it is the major player.
 “They are busy accusing Zanu PF instead of saying there is no money. The Finance minister who is supposed to source the money is (Tendai) Biti from MDC. If they wanted, they should have made money available through the budget.”
Zanu PF is still to submit the names of the seven chairpersons for some of the thematic committees and 254 names for the thematic sub-committees and also its nomination from civil society, which according to co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T MP) is stalling other stages of the process.
Mwonzora said: “I am sure Zanu PF is able to supply us with a list of patriotic Zanu PF members. We have not received that list. We can’t do a haphazard outreach programme. It would be irresponsible for the thematic committees to move without captains. It is sensible to supply the names. It does test the sincerity of the party.”
According to its timetable, the select committee has only managed to organise a stakeholders meeting in July, which was chaotic because of disruptions from Zanu PF supporters.
The public consultations are supposed to be completed by November, four months after the stakeholders meeting, and the draft of the constitution is supposed to be tabled within three months of completion of the public consultations to a second stakeholders conference. Consultations had been scheduled to start on August 25.
The whole process, according to the GPA, is supposed to take 18 months before a referendum is held, paving the way for free and fair elections.
Tsvangirai in his maiden speech to Parliament on March 4 said: “The signing of the Global Political Agreement on September 15 2008 signified the soft-landing of the Zimbabwe crisis and the commencement of a process that is irreversible and will lead to a new constitution and free and fair elections.”
President Robert Mugabe has pointed out that the constitution-making process was one of three priority areas outlined in the Short term Emergency Recovery Programme, which is supposed to cover the period February – December 2009. The other two are social protection and stabilisation.                                                                                          Despite these pronouncements from all the political parties that constitutional reform is a priority, the situation on the ground tells a different story.                   
No funds have been set aside by the government for the process. In fact, the inclusive government is broke. It has no money to finance most of its activities, let alone the constitution-making process, yet Zanu PF and the two MDC formations agreed a year ago that the drafting of a new constitution was high up on their list of priorities.     
Mwonzora admitted that no funds were set aside by the government to fund the process. A total of US$4,2 million is needed for the outreach programmes and to hire 165 cars for select committee members and 860 teams across the country.
Government has only disbursed US$350 000, which was used for the stakeholders conference in July.   
“Regarding the commitment of the government, there is no doubt. However, it is important that there be a specific budget item for the constitutional project. Unfortunately, that is not the case. It is important that the select committee be fully resourced both materially and financially in order for it to carry out its mandate fully,” Mwonzora said.
“I don’t know how they planned to resource the project — the fact that it was not a budget item shows gross omission in our view on the part of the state.”    
Analysts told the Zimbabwe Independent that not budgeting for the process showed that there was little commitment to ensuring that it is done within the 18-month timeframe outlined in the GPA.
Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly believes that all the parties were to blame and were not committed to drafting a new constitution within the timeframe agreed upon.   
“Zanu PF is openly speaking about no donor funding needed and are demanding that sanctions be removed first before a new constitution,” Madhuku said.
“And Tsvangirai has not made the constitution an outstanding issue. So I don’t see that there is commitment. It is clear from what is happening. The MDC leadership has not shown any commitment. It’s an attempt from both sides to delay. MDC wants people to think it is Zanu PF to blame, Zanu PF will play bad boy. They want to use this to prolong the inclusive government to the five years.”
Madhuku pointed out that if the MDC-T was committed, it would have been pushing for the process to move.  
Analysts said recent statements by Tsvangirai when he described the delay as “self-evident deliberate stalemate on the constitution-making process” were weak and fell far short of the robust calls before the formation of the inclusive government.              
A prominent lawyer in civic society said the 18-month time frame was now a “pipe dream” because organisers had already failed to meet their targeted period for each stage of the process.    
He said the fact that there are conflicting statements from the two co-chairpersons from Zanu PF and MDC-T points to the confusion surrounding the process.
Mwonzora said statements by the war veterans and war collaborators that sanctions should be removed before government can embark on a constitution-making process raises serious questions of commitment.
The lawyer said the slow pace in reforming legislation like the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, Public Order and Security Act and the setting up of institutional bodies like the Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were indicative of the parties’ insincerity.
“Maybe this is all a sign showing that they are jittery about where they will be when the process is finished. Some people don’t even want to think about losing their seats,” the lawyer said. “Blaming Zanu PF for stalling is not enough. You (MDC-T) should also be showing us that you are committed. By now MDC-T should be doing outreach programmes in rural areas explaining the process instead of going around the country doing 10-year celebrations.”
The question, which the lawyer said should be posed to MDC-T, is whether it is doing anything to prepare its members for the process.

 

Faith Zaba