The general instinct was to view Madhuku and the NCA as throwing spanners in the works in order to destabilise the constitutional reform process in preference of their own eminence.
The MDC-T had worked closely with the NCA; in fact at one time some of the party senior leadership were in the core of its hierarchy. The sudden show of political defiance by the NCA against the MDC-T’s position on constitutional reform was viewed as rebellion, outright mutiny and misdirected political ambition.
In projecting its position, the NCA has clearly objected to the total control of the constitutional process by political parties in parliament.
This they viewed as an entrenched political over-powering of the genuine voice of ordinary Zimbabweans in their diversity and quest for empowered decision-making.
Obviously the NCA has its overtones and excesses, but however there are some basic truths that they expressed then that seem to have come to the surface.
When the NCA absconded from involvement in what has now turned out to be a controversy-infested process, many of us felt that they had indeed subtracted themselves from the history of constitution-making in Zimbabwe.
However, they had otherwise absolved themselves from politically smeared and manipulated processes veneered as people-serving. If political morality is to prevail in civil society and political circles in Zimbabwe, then there must be mass acknowledgement of the NCA’s expressed position in cognisance of what has become reality today.
Some of the issues from the constitutional process that seem to confer credibility on the NCA’s position are as follows.
Firstly, the appointment of thematic committee chairpersons was the preserve of the three political parties in government.
In appointing their deputies, we were told that these would be provided by civil society and churches. Interestingly, these appointments were made by the three political parties as each was given a quota of persons to choose from civil society and churches.
So as much as the Constitutional Parliament Select Committee (Copac) informed us that the vice-chairpersons had come from civil society, they did not reveal that they were selected at the discretion of the three political parties themselves and not civil society.
So, in essence, the chairpersons are direct political appointees from the three parties whereas their deputies are from civil society and are selected by the three parties as well.
In our broad political appreciation, we are aware that there are pseudo civil society organisations that are either planted or are overtly supportive of the political parties (mainly the MDC-T and Zanu PF). With what muscle would the political parties have avoided the temptation to appoint these deputy chairpersons from the ranks of these aligned civil society organisations?
The architecture of the thematic areas leadership therefore stinks of politically indoctrinated marginalisation. Genuine civil society has no projected visibility in this instance.
When the outreach teams were selected the numerical distortions also reveal some political mischief that is shameful for people who are entrusted with leading such democratisation processes.
The National Association of Non-governmental Organisations (Nango, who are the largest mother body of civil society in Zimbabwe), only had about 33% of people proposed being finally accepted.
This translates to around 40 people or so. The three main church bodies (Zimbabwe Council of Churches, Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops’ Conference) all contributed less than 20 people involved in the bedlam-stained outreach process. This number represents about 6% of the total number of people they had jointly proposed.
From this generalised overview, civil society and churches therefore have about 60 genuine representations from a universal pool of about 500 team members.
There are however other genuine bodies outside of Nango and the three church groupings mentioned but their contribution to the numbers in the outreach teams is negligible. According to Copac’s guidelines, civil society and churches were suppose to account for 70% of outreach team membership and the balance was supposed to come from parliamentarians.
This 70% translates to about 350 people yet out of it only about 60 are genuinely reflective of the number coming from civil society and churches. This leaves a supply gap of about 290 people, who are all involved in the outreach teams but most of them seem to be from a dubious proposition.
The constitutional drama however continues and the contentious issue of rapporteurs aids this theatre.
When the involvement of civil society and churches was initially requested, there was no clarification of where and from whom the rapporteurs would come from. It actually turns out that this role is more functional than the outreach team membership.
Outreach teams have the role of conducting consultations but the rapporteurs have the focal role of recording proceedings, thereby creating the direct input to the resultant final constitutional document.
The political parties seem to have left this role for their domination and the current heckling reveals just how much they each intend to have substantial control of this decisive role in the total process. Again there is very limited and sublime visibility of civil society and churches in this crucial role.
Then there is talk of financial irregularities surrounding the entire constitutional reform process. It turns out to be very ironic that there was no mention of the allowance structures for outreach teams during the three-day training held in January.
Every other logistical attribute was mentioned except the financial matters. Hence financial matters seemed to be enveloped in superficial secrecy and lacked transparency.
People went away on the assumption that modest allowances would be paid to both civil society and MPs. It however turns out that MP’s will likely have a top-notch allowance package different from members of civil society though they will be involved in the same process.
This will again exhibit the elitist prominence of our legislators away from their expressed notion of national service — taken under oath when they were sworn-in. The constitutional process has toxic potential to be another income-boosting process for these wrong precedence-setting politicians.
So far, the thematic area leadership, the outreach teams’ composition and the identity of rapporteurs all seem to be weighing in heavily under the control of the three political parties. The financial irregularities also convey towards a job-for-the-boys attitude.
Given this matrix and imbalance, I am left with no option but to look back at the NCA’s initial suspicion.
Madhuku saw it coming while the rest of us decided on a paranoid reliance on this political system.
The next time people are required to drive their own processes they must be genuinely allowed to do so and if Madhuku is still around at such a time, please let’s attentively listen to him.
Trevor Maisiri is the Executive Director and co-founder of African Reform Institute, a political leadership development institute based in Harare.