Parties to GNU Stalling new Constitution — Analysts

SADDLED by lack of funds and bickering between the three parties in the inclusive government, the country’s constitution-making process is almost three months off the rails and analysts predict that more problems lie ahead.

The analysts believe that political power relations in the unity government are also at play in the process.
The process, which was envisaged to be completed in 18 months after the formation of the unity government, has been stalled by financial constraints as well.

There are disagreements between Zanu PF and the two MDC formations on the Kariba draft constitution, which President Robert Mugabe’s party insists should be used as the only reference point in the current process. The MDC formations are adamant that the process should be people-driven.

Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara have met over the Kariba draft, but are yet to agree on its fate apart from saying that the current process should consider the people’s views.

The new constitution will pave the way for free and fair elections and the longer it takes to craft the supreme law means the longer the stay of the inclusive government.

Despite clear evidence that the process has stalled, principals of the global political agreement (GPA) that ushered in the unity government continued to claim that everything was on course.

Officially opening the second session of the seventh parliament last week, Mugabe told the nation that “work is in progress towards a new constitution for the country”.

To expedite the process, Mugabe said, the three principals of the GPA had agreed that the six negotiators of the unity pact – Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche of Zanu PF; Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T; and Welshman Ncube and Priscillah Misihairabwi-Mushonga of the MDC-M – would form the constitution-making organ’s management committee together with three members of the 25-member select committee of parliament. The management committee would have an independent secretariat.

“This enhanced committee will be responsible for formulating the policy direction of the process, while a steering committee will be the implementing arm,” Mugabe said. “Thematic sub-committees which have now been established will extensively garner the views of all our people, for consideration in the drafting of the new constitution.”

The enhanced management committee was expected to “enhance efficiency, capacity and exclusivity” in the constitution-making process.

But Justice minister Chinamasa said a new constitution could only be drafted if there were adequate resources in place and added that the 2000 draft constitution outreach programme was well-funded by organisations such as the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

He said the debate on whether or not the Kariba draft should be used as a reference document was diluted by the ignorance of most people, including parliamentarians, on the contents of the document.

“The problem is that most people including MPs and you journalists have not read the (Kariba draft) constitution. People should not concentrate on process but content of the constitution,” Chinamasa said.

Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga this week said besides resource constraints, the latest setback on the constitution-making process is the demand by the new management committee of the process to reconfigure the 17 thematic committees agreed on during July’s chaotic first stakeholders conference.

In July, the parties agreed that Zanu PF and the MDC-T would chair seven committees each, MDC-M two and the traditional chiefs’ council one.

“This has now changed. A new committee set up recently to manage the reforms has asked us to reconfigure the party representation to ensure that all parties in the inclusive government chair an equal number of thematic committees,” Matinenga said.

He said as such the MDC-T, MDC-M and Zanu PF will now chair five thematic committees each, with the other two chaired by traditional chiefs. These thematic committees will lead the consultative phase of drawing up a new constitution.

The representation of people in the committees will remain the same. Civil society, chiefs and other stakeholders still maintain a 70% representation, while parliament will remain with 30%.

This move, analyst observed, would further delay the process.

Veritas, a group of lawyers who monitor political developments in the country, in their analysis last week said while it was obvious that the outreach programme was over two months behind schedule, the principals were yet to be asked to set new timelines for the crafting of the supreme law, “but have indicated that the GPA dates should not be considered as set in stone”.

Premises to house the independent secretariat have not yet been found and recruiting of key staff has not started, while Matinenga’s ministry is reportedly working on a project document for UNDP to raise donor funding and would be seeking funds from treasury and from the business sector.

Political analysts said there seemed to be a deliberate ploy by the inclusive government to delay the constitution-making process to prolong its stay in power.

UK-based Zimbabwean lawyer and newspaper columnist, Alex Magaisa, said the delay in the constitution-making process mirrored the slow pace at which things were developing and changing in the country.

“It also demonstrates the differences between the governing parties and also involving civil society and politicians,” Magaisa said. “The problem is that it is this new constitution which is supposed to pave the way for a new dispensation in terms of governance. It’s supposed to lay the framework for free and fair elections since holding elections under the current system will be nonsensical as it will likely produce more disputed results.”

What the delays mean, he added, was that it would be a long time before the elections are held thereby prolonging the lifespan of the shaky coalition arrangement currently governing the country.
“It seems to me that this means the unity government is here to stay for quite some time,” Magaisa predicted.

Political scientist Michael Mhike said there appeared to be a deliberate ploy by the inclusive government to delay the process.

He said the two MDC formations and Zanu PF were not prepared for fresh polls in the near future for various reasons.

The MDC-T, Mhike argued, was confident of winning the elections, but worried that without security reforms a coup would be staged against its government, while Zanu PF and the MDC-M were aware they would be humiliated at the polls.

“Every party in the inclusive government intends to buy time until they think they will be in good stead to win the elections,” Mhike said. “By dragging their feet on the constitution-making process, the parties are prolonging their stay in government and at the same time working on strategies to position themselves for the elections.”

Magaisa said the parties to the GPA accepted that a new constitution was inevitable, but judging their commitment was another thing altogether.

“What we can deduce from the circumstances is that Zanu PF has thrived under the current constitution so it does not lose anything by retaining the present constitutional regime,” he argued. “On the other hand the MDC formations have faced great challenges under the current constitution given the way in which it gives power to the executive president so that even under this unity government real power still lies with Mugabe and Zanu PF.”

He said the three parties in government seem to be happy for the moment and would like to maintain the inclusive government.

“They are in no hurry to hold elections, given the risks associated with that process. That is why in my view there could be an invisible and perhaps involuntary pact and understanding between the three parties that this unity government should continue for quite some time, thereby allowing room for stability, perhaps regeneration and in some ways personal benefit of those with their hands in the pot of power,” Magaisa averred. “Greed, unfortunately, is a human trait which affects all men and women and I doubt that many of the new ministers will be too happy to leave the party at this point or in the near future.”

 

Constantine Chimakure

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