HomeCommentParties’ Bickering Derails Constitution Process

Editor’s Memo: We’re living in a police state

SERIOUS bickering and wrangling by the three political parties in the inclusive government on the selection of rapporteurs, accountability of donor funds and the role of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have put off track the constitution-making process.

Besides the problems, Zanu PF has launched a parallel outreach programme for the constitution-making process designed to coach people to come up with a constitution similar to the Kariba Draft, which was strongly opposed by the MDC formations and civic society.

Impeccable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent this week that there was also a battle to take charge and control the process between the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (Copac) and the management committee of the process.

The UNDP on Monday met with Copac and later with the management committee on Wednesday where a decision was made to amend the original funding agreement made with the donor organisation.

The organisation had pledged to bankroll the outreach programme of the constitution-making process to the tune of US$18 million, but the funding was put on ice amid allegations that some earlier disbursements were not properly accounted for.

It also emerged this week that the UNDP was not happy with the talking points Copac came up with, with suggestions that they were influenced by Zanu PF.

The sources said the fight between Copac and the management committee, co-chaired by Tendai Biti from MDC-T, Welshman Ncube from MDC and Patrick Chinamasa from Zanu PF, was likely to further delay the commencement of the outreach programme to gather the views of the people.

“The management committee that is composed of the negotiators from the three parties feels it has more powers than Copac and the cancellation of the UNDP project document is an example of the mistrust that the two bodies have for each other,” said one of the sources. 

Last week, Zanu PF’s vice-president Joice Mujuru launched a nationwide outreach programme in Mt Darwin, ostensibly to educate people on the constitution-making process.

Party sources said the programme was meant to result in a constitution similar to the Kariba Draft written by Zanu PF and the two MDC formations in 2007 during talks to end the country’s political crisis.The Kariba Draft was rejected as the sole reference document to the current process.

The sources said donors had also expressed concern that Zanu PF had influenced the crafting of talking points and was pushing for the redrafting of the questions to be put to the people during the outreach programme. The donors, the sources said, feared that through the talking points Zanu PF was planning to introduce the Kariba Draft by another name through the back door.

“Zanu PF used its teams on the ground during the training programme for outreach purposes and they infiltrated all the thematic teams and influenced the imposition of their draft questions into the questionnaire,” said another source.

The source said donors were also concerned about the use and accountability of funds they have channelled towards the constitution-making-process so far.

The sources said the donors expressed concern that the number of outreach teams doubled after a training workshop a fortnight ago.

The donors allegedly raised concerns over the budget of the constitution-making process after Copac agreed to involve all members of the House of Assembly and Senate in the outreach programme.

Only 50 MPs were initially supposed to participate in the outreach programme but after protests from the legislators and their political parties, it was agreed that all of the over 300 members of the two houses be allowed onto the teams.  

Sources in Copac said the parliamentarians are set to pocket between US$65 and US $300 daily in allowances from the outreach programme.

The outreach teams are expected to be out in the field for 65 days when the programme commences.
The UNDP and government had pledged slightly over US$50 million to fund the constitution-making process but the figure is expected to balloon after enlarging the outreach programme teams.

Co-chairperson of Copac Douglas Mwonzora confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that initially not all legislators were supposed to be part of the outreach programme.

“Originally not all House of Assembly members and Senators were part of the outreach programme but the management committee decided to include all legislators in order to enhance accessibility in all areas and all this has the effect of increasing the allocated budget,” Mwonzora said.

Mwonzora denied that the UNDP had stopped funding the process.

“If the UNDP were to pull out they would inform the government and they have not indicated that to us. The UNDP remains committed and this week we met with them to discuss various issues pertaining to the constitution-making process,” Mwonzora said.

There were reports that UNDP, the European Union, USAid, Germany, the United Kingdom, the UK’s Department for International Development, Sweden and France had withdrawn their support for the constitution-making process after failing to influence the talking points.

Mwonzora however said there had been confusion over the issue as the original understanding was that UNDP would provide experts to assist in wording the questions and in the production of the outreach manual.

“The allegations that the UNDP wanted to influence the talking points is false as there is a standing agreement that the UNDP will provide experts who will assist with the wording of the questions and the production of the manual and there is no way they would have wanted to take control of a process that is controlled by Zimbabweans,” Mwonzora said.

It also emerged this week that the three political parties finally reached an agreement on the appointment of rapporteurs who will lead the outreach programme.

Copac on Tuesday met and reached an agreement that the rapporteurs will be appointed on a professional basis by the committee.

The rapporteurs would report to Copac and will make daily reports to political representatives after every outreach meeting. 

Zanu PF had wanted civil servants and youths to be the rapporteurs. However the other parties alleged that civil servants and youths were partisan.

The parties had then proposed that each party will provide 70 rapporteurs.

“The issue of having each party forwarding 70 rapporteurs was rejected and the rapporteurs will now be appointed professionally,” Mwonzora said.

Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the National Constitutional Assembly (NAC) and the Zimbabwe National Association of Students’ Unions yesterday said the stalling of the constitution-making-process was a precursor to a flawed draft document.

At a joint press conference in Harare the civic organisations said they would campaign against the process.

“To get a genuine constitution, we need an independent commission and that is the position we still stand by,” said NCA chairperson Lovemore Madhuku. “The politicians know about the need for independence and that is the reason why they have three chairpersons (for the management committee where each of the three political parties which are signatory to the global political agreement are represented).”

The “flawed” process, Madhuku said, was also taking too long to take off, as it was very much behind schedule.

“We will fight to stop this as these people are wasting our time as a country. This is our country and we cannot watch this circus,” said Madhuku. “They are not writing a constitution. It will be very naïve to continue giving them the money for the new constitution. What we are saying is that they should not waste our time and we are going to play our constructive role”.

Loughty Dube

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading