HomeCommentCandid Comment: Constitution-making process in limbo

Candid Comment: Constitution-making process in limbo

THE inclusive government embarked on a constitution-making process some four months ago.

For some people a new constitution was seen as an enabling tool to hold free and fair elections within two years, while to others in civic society it was an opportunity for a people-driven process to replace the Lancaster House Constitution, which critics say has been manipulated by President Robert Mugabe and his party to hold on to power. But to another group of people resisting the reforms, a new constitution is seen as a weapon to limit Mugabe’s powers.
A new constitution was a key demand of the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai in joining the inclusive government with Zanu PF. And true to the Global Political Agreement, a parliamentary select committee was set up in April and entrusted with crafting a new constitution.
The inclusive government was seen as a transitional arrangement, until a new constitution is in place.
But up to today, not much has been done except for holding the all-stakeholders conference in July, which was chaotic, with disruptions from Zanu PF supporters.
Politicians have been known to think that their constituents are gullible, but pretending to be committed to a process is tantamount to taking a peaceful people for fools. Zimbabweans are beginning to wonder if the setting up of the select committee was meant to hoodwink them into believing that the inclusive government was truly committed to the constitution-making process.
Factors on the ground show that the government might not be serious after all and the select committee on the constitution is now frustrated by the lack of movement.
It is not clear up to this day how government plans to fund the process. The real source of funding remains a mystery four months after it started the process.
The constitution-making process will cost a total of US$11,2 million and only US$2 million has been received from UNDP.  What we know is that Treasury has no money for the project. Why it was even launched is beyond anyone’s comprehension because the inclusive government knew then that it did not even have a cent to fund it.
Where is Finance Minister Tendai Biti expected to get the funds when he does not even have the money to pay civil servants or fund key service areas such as education, health, water and sanitation? The country does not have money to import electricity and is currently looking for farming inputs.
The government’s major task at the moment is to turn around the economy. Zimbabwe needs US$10 billion for its emergency short-term economic recovery programme and has raised more than US$1 billion, mostly in lines of credit from other African countries.
It recently received US$500 million from the IMF.
During his revised budget speech, Biti said the country must do only those things that Treasury can pay for from what it receives through taxes.
Responding to teachers’ demands for a salary hike, the Finance minister said government could not “draw water from stones” and that the economy was not performing. One would like to believe that there must have been a plan ‘B’ when the GNU launched the reform process, otherwise where did they expect Biti to get the money.
Maybe, the government expected donors to pour in the funds. But factors on the ground show that donors were not willing to fund the inclusive government until it created a democracy and improved human rights.
Announcing the 25-member Parliamentary Select Committee, Speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo said the “constitution-making process will require substantial financial and human resources”.  He called upon all “progressive forces to join hands” with government in funding the process.
Donor funding is already a problem with Zanu PF, which has stated that it will not allow foreign resources into the process.
So far, appeals for financial aid for the process have been made to the European Union, Usaid, UNDP and donor countries like Germany and Sweden. But only UNDP has responded with the US$2 million, part of which was used to hold the all-stakeholders conference. Right now, the select committee does not have offices, cars, materials, phones and they have not been paid their allowances.
It cannot start the outreach programme because the US$4,2 million required for the consultations is not available. Lack of commitment, especially from Zanu PF, is shown through its unwillingness to submit names for the thematic and sub-thematic committees. Even if it claims to be committed, why does it not just simply give the committee the list so that it can at least set up the thematic committees and start preparing the people for training?
Meanwhile, the MDC formations do not seem to be doing anything to reach out to supporters to prepare them for the constitution-making process.
Zanu PF has been holding meetings with their MPs, simplifying the Kariba draft for their constituents.
But the delay and their unwillingness to commit to the process show that there are deliberate moves to prolong the inclusive government by all parties.
MDC-T deputy secretary-general Tapiwa Mashakada was correct when he said the process should not be allowed to take more than two years and that extending the GNU should be a decision from the people through a referendum.
If a government can violate the constitution by not holding by-elections in close to 15 constituencies, what makes people think it will live up to its promise to finish the constitution within 18 months and thereafter hold free and fair elections?
The politicians have to be reminded why they occupy those positions and that they should not get too comfortable and relaxed.


Faith Zaba



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