Editor’s Memo: Let’s resist repression but also reflect

THE Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC and Zanu PF are advocating adoption of a powerful executive and superficial reforms in the constitution-making process that will not broaden democracy, political analysts said this week.

While Zanu PF wants a new constitution to maintain the current status quo where the president has what many consider excessive powers, the MDC-T is proposing a system which at first sight may appear to have checks and balances, but where ultimate authority rests in the president and cabinet.

Analysts said history seemed to be repeating itself, but this time with the MDC-T being the main player.

Some of the MDC-T positions on the new constitution were adopted “word for word” from the rejected 2000 draft constitution, which had proposed an executive with an elected president and a prime minister chosen from a party with the majority in parliament. The proposal was backed then by Zanu PF.

The analysts said the MDC-T has adopted the 2000 position in the assumption that it would win a future presidential election and would be the majority in parliament.

On the executive, constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku likened Zanu PF to a cruel relative who neither smiles nor pretends to like you and MDC-T to a relative who smiles and pretends to like you and welcomes you with open arms into his home.

“The difference in the two after reading their proposals is that Zanu PF shows its true colours, while MDC-T pretends and smiles but gives you poisoned food,” Madhuku said. “With MDC-T, you die in a very comfortable bed. That is the danger of a powerful executive that both parties are trying to create.”

Madhuku said the MDC-T wants to create two centres of power, but if these are from the same party, then the appointed prime minister would obviously serve the interests of the president.

“It is history repeating itself when Zanu PF was the dominating party. MDC-T is just stepping into Zanu PF’s shoes. They want to cheat the country into believing that there is power sharing,” he said.

“There are no checks and balances in intra-organs. They are just creating a squabbling environment. Anyone appointed by the other is loyal to that person. The president will just be exercising his powers through that medium.”

The analysts said constitutional reforms depended mostly on the kind of executive that is created whether a powerful one or a less powerful one with strong institutions. The latter would provide for the necessary checks and balances.

They said having many “independent” commissions, which are implementing bodies, is good in principle but their effectiveness will depend on the type of executive the country has.

Director of the Zimbabwe chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa-Zimbabwe) Nhlanhla Ngwenya said while MDC-T is advocating a provision that explicitly guarantees press and media freedom under its proposed Bill of Rights, it remains vague on the form of the media regulatory mechanism it wanted.

But Zanu PF’s position, Ngwenya said, was worse because its responses to the talking points on the media portray the party’s desires to either maintain the discredited status quo or superficially reform the media.

“The political parties’ responses to the talking points crafted by Copac (Constitution Select Committee) on constitutional reform further affirm fears that the whole process will just be an extension of the political power struggles for supremacy that has plagued the inclusive government since its inception and not a genuine attempt to harness Zimbabweans’ democratic aspirations,” he said.

National Constitutional Assembly director Ernest Mudzengi said Zanu PF’s responses show that it is not concerned about bringing genuine reforms, adding that all it wanted was to maintain the status quo.

“You must read this knowing what Zanu PF is talking about when they say executive president. We know what it means, they are talking of an all-powerful president. If they were reform-minded they would have been talking about creating strong institutions,” he said.

He gave an example of the way Zanu PF responded to a question on whether parliament or a standing order committee of parliament should approve cabinet appointments.

Zanu PF said in its response: “There is no need for parliamentary approval of the president’s appointment of Cabinet ministers since the president is popularly elected directly by the people.”

Mudzengi said in other democracies, ministers are selected by the president but approval is done by a Senate.

On electoral reforms, the analysts said Zanu PF has only included small concessions agreed on in the Kariba draft, for example the setting up of an independent electoral commission.

They, however, said the proposals by President Robert Mugabe’s party do not create a playing field that allows for free and fair elections.

The analysts said Zanu PF could not respond to a question on the period within which election results should be announced.

Mudzengi said: “Zanu PF wants to make sure that the process remains under the executive president and that the electoral process does not shift. They want to keep hold on power by hook or crook.”

 

Faith Zaba