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Constitution: Political parties’ views set to prevail

AS the constitution outreach programme gains momentum, analysts say the new constitution which will be put to a referendum will be determined more by political parties in the inclusive government than ordinary Zimbabweans.

The analysts said clauses in the global political agreement empower parliament to reject, amend or adopt the draft constitution with or without amendments.

Article VI reads: “The draft constitution and accompanying report shall be tabled before parliament within one month of the second all stakeholders’ conference and the draft constitution emerging from parliament shall be gazetted before holding a referendum.”

After an affirmative referendum, the draft constitution shall be introduced in parliament no later than one month after the expiration of the period of 30 days from the date of its gazetting.

African Reform Institute executive director Trevor Maisiri said: “So the parliamentarians who are obviously the driving force of the current outreach will once again have an opportunity to check the draft document after the second stakeholders meeting. This is ironic because how can the very people driving a process check a document before it goes to referendum.

He added: “What is the special interest for parliamentarians to check the document and debate it before it goes to referendum? Again I wonder what will happen with the MDC-T and Zanu PF in parliament at this stage given their divided desires for the constitutional provisions. In the end what we are likely to experience are dramatic scenes of political contestations across the political divide for a constitution of their choice.”

The analysts said it would not be surprising if a compromise constitution emerges as the final document agreed on by the three political parties in the inclusive government.

A constitution needs to be adopted by a two-thirds majority in parliament and none of the three political parties has the numbers in both the House of Assembly and Senate.

The analysts said whatever the outcome from the outreach programme, parliament would have the final say on the constitution to be presented to the people.

However, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga believes that the document that should be taken to the people should be the one that comes out of the second all stakeholders’ conference and parliament should endorse it without any amendments.

“If the draft differs, there is a real possibility that it would be negative and would be rejected by the people. We will see how it goes but any last minute mutilation of what the people would have said is morally wrong and unacceptable,” he said.

However, Maisiri believes that a document that comes out of the stakeholders’ meeting would still be partisan.

“Taking the indicative events of the first stakeholders meeting, we may likely see a repetition of the theatricals. Because Zanu PF and MDC-T have specifically come up with divergent viewpoints on the constitution, this second stakeholders meeting is likely to be a contestation between the two parties,” he said.

“Whoever is able to bus in as many supporters as possible and create the most rapturous acclaims may walk away with a draft of their choice or at least derail the other party’s.”

The analysts said the notion was that people were writing either a Zanu PF or an MDC desired constitution and not a national document.

“Because of this wrong and undemocratic foundation, the likelihood is that the final document will not entirely represent the views and desires of Zimbabweans but the craving of the political parties in parliament,” pointed out Maisiri.

President Robert Mugabe said people were participating in the constitutional process as political parties or groupings organised around definite interests, views and values.

He said it was about different sectarian interests competing for ascendancy or dominance.

“From the reports I have received so far, I am happy that the party has been very active and well organised at these meetings. Across the country, the party’s voice has been dominant, putting forward its views, values and vision with characteristic cogency and maturity as befits a party of our age and experience,” Mugabe said.

“Our party position in respect of the 17 major thematic areas is well known and has been well articulated and projected.”

Senior Zanu PF officials seem confident that the fundamental issues they want included in the draft constitution would be incorporated in the final draft.

To make sure that their views were well articulated during the outreach meetings, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said they had chosen spokespeople to express the party position on the 17 major thematic areas.

“It’s a system we have adopted. We have encouraged our people to speak freely. But as it happens in some cases there are people who want to speak but can’t because of stage fright and there are others that can speak openly,” Gumbo said.

“So we said let us have someone who articulates our views and others can agree or disagree freely. We chose those that can articulate our views, values and vision very well as spokespersons. So we don’t have a plan ‘B’ or anything because we are sure that our views will be incorporated.”

MDC-T spokesperson Nelson Chamisa criticised Zanu PF for reducing villagers to robots.

“It is clear the process is in the intensive care unit. We need the best physicians to save it. To save it we require collective efforts, otherwise it will be an exercise in futility,” he said.

Constitutional lawyer Lovemore Madhuku, whose organisation, the National Constitutional Assembly successfully campaigned for the rejection of the 2000 draft constitution, said any document that emerges from the process would be predominantly Zanu PF.

“From the reports, it seems Zanu PF positions are dominating. They will also have people who will compile the draft — they also dominate in Copac (the Constitution Parliamentary Committee). It is the president that calls for it and Mugabe will not take a document he does not want to a referendum. There is no chance of taking a document without Zanu PF positions.”

Madhuku said if it so happened that the draft is significantly different from what Zanu PF wanted, Zimbabwe might not see a new constitution.

“Don’t expect miracles, it is going to be a reproduction of what they want and don’t underestimate Zanu PF,” he said.

 

Faith Zaba

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