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Diamonds, preemptive

THE last two weeks in Zimbabwe have witnessed three political events that one may be forgiven for underestimating their importance. 

The first was the arrest of human rights activist Farai Maguwu over the drawn-out Kimberley Process Certification of the Chiadzwa diamonds.  This includes the Tel Aviv meetings.

The second was the very calm announcement of electoral reforms by the Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Patrick Chinamasa.  These reforms, we are made to understand, have been agreed to by the three political parties in cabinet. 

 The third event was the launch of the extremely confused and confusing Copac outreach programme to solicit the views of citizens on the new constitution. 

All of these events may initially seem disconnected, but the truth of the matter is that they are literally inseparable if one is to seek a measurement of the success, failures as well as future of the inclusive government. 

To begin with, all of the aforementioned events are highly contentious in terms of the inclusive government’s differences on them as well as how they affect the political, social and economic affairs of Zimbabwe beyond the corridors of power.  The central role that the government has allocated itself in all of these issues is also indicative of their inter-connectedness and why they should not be considered separately.

If one were to consider the mining and selling of diamonds at Chiadzwa, the arguments raised by many in the MDC is that the resources accrued from the gems may be used by Zanu PF to fund a violent electoral campaign. Zanu PF on the other hand argues that the issue of diamonds relates to matters concerning sovereignty and sanctions, issues which they say are articulated in the GPA.

  The truth of the matter, for an outside observer, is that the Chiadzwa diamond saga is now less about the usage of the resources for the betterment of the lives of Zimbabweans.  It has become more political than economic, especially if one considers the ambiguities of the definitions of “blood diamonds” or, alternatively, the intention to redefine the same phrase in Tel Aviv or in Russia.
It is more or less a case of each political party in the government trying to play against the other in order to eventually reap political or electoral benefits that would accrue from the eventual sale of the diamonds.   This would explain why the inclusive government and in part civil society are silent on the arrest of Farai Maguwu and ambiguous about what the eventual use of the resources accrued from the sale of diamonds should be.

In the same vein, when one reads into the announcement of electoral reforms, a startling omission is the announcement of a timetable to implement these reforms and eventually hold elections.  Even where the explanation given for the announcement is that these were negotiated reforms to the electoral laws, what then happens to the constitutional reform process which is supposed to determine the regulatory framework of the next elections? Did the political parties agree to these reforms in order to attempt the holding of parliamentary by-elections or to circumvent any future differences on elections by arguing that it was already agreed? 

 I am persuaded that these reforms are indeed meant to pre-empt any further debate on electoral reform by the public or civil society. They also render useless the constitutional reform process being undertaken by Copac because as far as I see, there will be no changes to what was already “agreed” by the principals.  This is even more startling because until the said amendments are published in the Government Gazette, we will not know their full import. Neither will we be consulted on the legal problems concerning 50% plus one in a presidential election vote count. 

Add to this the flawed process that is being undertaken by Copac against better advice from the NCA, it becomes easier to understand how the inclusive government is not being honest with the people of Zimbabwe.  Ideally one would expect everyone to know what is going on about constitutional reform, but then Copac imposes a blanket ban on media coverage of its activities.

In similar fashion to what goes on in Chiadzwa, only the politicians and their securocrats know both the intention and outcome of their processes.  Increasingly with all the stories about the scramble for resources in Copac and allegations of intimidation of members of the public, the recently launched constitutional outreach is bordering on being completely illegitimate. And the buck stops at the door of the inclusive government as it does with the matters of Chiadzwa and pre-emptive electoral reforms.
It is important to emphasise that the occurrence of electoral reform, disputes over the KP process and the launch of a flawed constitutional reform process should not be discussed separately.  This is not only because they have a direct bearing on the future of the country but also because considering them separately would make it seem as though the inclusive government is working coherently. 

The leaders of this government bear full responsibility for these three matters being problematic. And they should be made to account for their political ineptitude. If they are in need of solutions on Chiadzwa they should initially seek a cohesive domestic response to the human rights abuses as well as the potential usage of the earnings acquired through the diamonds.  If they are worried about elections they should abandon the Copac constitutional reform process and initiate an independent constitutional reform body which will openly consult the people for their views on elections, amongst other matters.
Takura Zhangazha can be contacted on Kuurayiwa@gmail.com.

By Takura Zhangazha

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