Power struggles rock constitutional process

POWER struggles between the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) and the management committee, dominated by cabinet ministers, is threatening to further derail the constitution-making reform process that is already behind schedule.

This has been compounded by a serious lack of recording equipment for the outreach programme as well as inadequate security from police. Police have whittled down the number of officers to cover the constitutional reform process from 1 000 to 350 after being denied funding by Copac.
MPs in Copac are accusing the management committee of hijacking the process to prolong their stay in government, where they are enjoying comfortable lives.
At a meeting held on Friday May 14 at the Jameson Hotel. Copac members took turns to blast the management committee for blocking progress through “needless interference”, informed sources said.
Management committee members, on the other hand, accuse Copac members of abusing their lead role in the constitution-making process to fatten their pockets, according to details of meetings held in the past two weeks.
Article Six of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) mandates Copac with leading the constitution-making process and this has left MPs questioning why the management committee continues “behaving like lords”, according to sources.
The management committee was appointed by government in October last year to approve work plans and budgets for the select committee. A tense management committee meeting on Monday evening was inconclusive as Copac representatives insisted on receiving all relevant resources before announcing a programme of action for the outreach programme.
The outreach programme is important because views gathered through this process will form the core contents of the new constitution.
The recording equipment would be provided by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) which recently tendered for video recorders, audio recorders, cameras and laptops which will be used during the outreach programme.
Copac co-chairperson Edward Mkhosi (MDC-T) confirmed the Monday meeting, saying it was meant to roll out the programme of action.
“We told the management committee that it is only after we got the equipment that we would roll out the programme of operation,” said Mkhosi.  “We will have another meeting on Monday.”
The management committee also rejected an appeal for larger allowances by the select committee, resulting in heated exchanges at its Monday meeting.
The meeting, held at Copac’s offices in Milton Park on Monday evening, was meant to follow up on recommendations made by Copac at their May 14 meeting.
At this meeting, Copac members mandated their co-chairpersons, Zanu PF’s Paul Mangwana, Douglas Mwonzora of MDC-T and Mkhosi to appeal against low outreach programme allowances for MPs, pegged at $15 a day.
Copac members get $50 dollars a day as a sitting allowance and are paid 22 cents per km as mileage fees whenever they attend a meeting. Select committee co-chairpersons also sit on the management committee, but are outnumbered by power-sharing talks negotiators, who are all cabinet ministers.
Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma from the MDC-T, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Welshman Ncube representing MDC-M and Zanu PF’s Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche are part of the management committee, which also includes Minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs Eric Matinenga.
Sources said Misihairabwi-Mushonga led the rejection of any increases in allowances and accused Copac of organising “unnecessary meetings” to cash in on sitting allowances.
“Mangwana was outraged by these accusations and threatened to sue Misihairabwi-Mushonga for bringing damaging accusations against Copac members.  In the end, the management committee told Copac chairpersons to tell their members that those who were unhappy with the allowances should step down,” said a source who attended both the management committee and select committee meetings.
Matinenga yesterday dismissed as unfounded accusations that the management committee was delaying the constitutional process as a way of extending their stay as cabinet ministers.
“It is Copac which made a critical path analysis,” Matinenga said. “How would ministers prolong their stay? Personally, I certainly would not stay longer than is necessary. If the government of Zimbabwe had money, the constitutional process would have moved.”
Tensions between the management committee and Copac are just part of problems crippling the constitution-making process.
The police, meanwhile, have warned that they should not be held responsible if violence broke out during the outreach programme after Copac refused to pay $3 million demanded by the law enforcement agents.
Deputy Police Commissioner-General (Operations) Innocent Matibiri told the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs earlier this month that intelligence reports indicated that violence was likely to affect the outreach programme. The police, he said, was inadequately equipped to deal with the anticipated violence in the absence of financial support.
Copac chairpersons told the same committee this week that the police had requested money to buy vehicles, fuel, computers, and allowances of $30 a day per police officer and that this money was unbudgeted and unavailable.

Farai Mutsaka / Leonard Makombe

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