Clashes over the new constitution are now escalating within Copac, civil society, political parties and among pricipals. MDC secretary-general Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (pictured right) and her MDC-T counterpart Tendai Biti have fiercely defended the constitution-making process saying it would be “naive” for anyone to assume the process could be purely people-driven.
They particularly rejected criticism from National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku accusing him of not being honest with the aspect of a people-driven constitution.
Madhuku has been on the offensive against the constitution-making process. He dismissed the first draft of the proposed constitution as a replica of the Kariba draft.
The Kariba draft was crafted during a retreat to the resort town of Kariba by representatives of Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC in 2007.
President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF are also threatening to reject the current draft constitution.
Madhuku said as long as the constitution-making process remained exclusively in the hands of the three political parties in the Global Political Agreement, the resultant product would be a Kariba draft-like document vesting all powers in an executive president and not doing enough in social and economic rights.
He threatened to campaign for the rejection of the draft arguing it was not people-driven. However, Misihairabwi-Mushonga accused Madhuku of not being honest over the issue.
“Some of us are founders of the NCA and we know what we meant by people-driven,” said Misihairabwi-Mushonga. “It was never that people will sit under a tree and write a constitution, and even Madhuku himself knows that. So to some extent, he is just politicking. I’m sure he is sufficiently intelligent a man to understand that we will not have a situation where people themselves will sit down and write the constitution,” she said.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the NCA draft constitution was itself not written by the people. “He (Madhuku) knows it. We went and spoke to people and sat down with those that were part of the management committee of the NCA and distilled those issues from what people were saying, and from the best practices as well as what we felt was progressive at that particular point in time.”
She said the constitution-making exercise as always going to be a negotiated process and people would have been naive to assume that all the things that people said during the outreach programme would be put in the draft. Some of the things that people had said were emotional and not progressive.
“The reason why we have a negotiated process in this thing is that a constitution can only be a constitution if it’s accepted and the three political parties are in agreement. Remember it has to go through parliament. So unless you have a buy-in from all the three political parties, you are wasting your time,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.
Biti said although the outreach process was not without its own problems, for critics to say people were not consulted was an insult.
“The negotiating element is where we are right now. There have been parked issues where the parties are going to negotiate. I know this process is impolitic. To a large extent, you can say it is not people-driven, fair and fine, but it is such an important process that has had a substantial number of people participating that you can’t ignore.
“The attitude is that let’s make the best of this process and get the best constitution. If Zimbabweans five years from now want another constitution, it is their constitutional right. In terms of the substantive contents of the constitution, there is no such thing as a transitional constitution. So if you fail to get it right, even with that flawed process, don’t think you will get it right the second time,” said Biti.