THE Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac)’s sub-committee on information and publicity has lodged a complaint with Media, Information and Publicity minister Webster Shamu regarding alleged biased state-controlled media coverage of the constitution-making process.
The process is saddled by political and financial hitches that have seen its intended outreach programme to gather people’s views put on ice.
Chairperson of the Copac sub-committee Jessie Majome in the company of co-chairpersons of the constitution-making process –– Paul Mangwana, Douglas Mwonzora and Believe Gaule (standing in for MDC-M’s Edward Mkhosi) –– last week met Shamu to lodge the complaint.
The meeting took place at a time when the constitution-making has stalled after the management committee disowned a financial agreement signed by Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and ordered a new one to be crafted.
The state media then reported that the UNDP had pulled out funding of the entire process.
It however emerged later that the reports were false as the UNDP had not pulled out of the process.
The state broadcaster, ZTV and state-controlled newspapers in the Zimpapers stable, the Herald, the Sunday Mail, the Chronicle and the Sunday News, are alleged to be on an offensive to discredit the constitution-making process.
Majome this week confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that her committee had raised concerns with Shamu over the partisan manner in which the state-controlled media was covering issues pertaining to the crafting of a new supreme law.
She said the three co-chairpersons of Copac were in agreement that the state-controlled media was biased towards Zanu PF.
Majome said: “We raised concerns of the failure by the state media to cover the constitution-making process in a fair and balanced manner. We were concerned with the biased coverage where the Zanu PF ministers and officials were the only ones covered and that is of serious concern to us as Article six of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) stipulates that there should be a conducive environment for the writing of the constitution and the state media is not creating that conducive environment.”
The constitution-making process has been facing serious problems as Zanu PF has been throwing spanners in the work of Copac.
Zanu PF is currently undertaking a parallel process where they are drilling villagers and feeding them with talking points from the Kariba draft constitution.
Sources who attended the closed meeting however said while Shamu accepted that the reportage in the state-controlled media needed to be improved, he also accused the private media of bias in favour of the MDC formations.
The sources said Shamu said the coverage of the constitution-making process by both the state and the private media was not serving national interests and said he was making arrangements to meet editors from the two sides.
Zanu PF and the MDC factions have been singing from different hymn sheets on the process. Zanu PF has been arguing that the Kariba Draft be used as the only reference document in crafting a new constitution, but the MDC formations are adamant that a people-driven process was ideal.
The crafting of a new constitution is part of the requirements of a September 2008 power-sharing deal between President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara that gave birth to the all inclusive government last February.
Once a new constitution has been crafted by the three parties, the power-sharing government is expected to call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections.