The GPA is basically a roadmap to fresh elections after the poll bloodbath of June 2008 which resulted in President Robert Mugabe’s purported victory secured through a campaign of violence and brutality being widely rejected as illegitimate. It sought to usher in a peaceful environment where recovery and stability would dominate Zimbabwe’s political landscape, displacing the climate of fear and misery enveloping the country.
Article VI of the GPA stipulates that a new constitution must be in place before free and fair elections could be held. This was the understanding among the parties right from the beginning. In fact, the central element of the GPA— the roadmap towards fresh elections —is to have a new constitution before the polls.
However, Mugabe’s remarks at the chiefs’ conference in Bulawayo last week that the GPA was never about writing a new constitution but putting an end to political violence before new elections sounded like an attempt to rewrite the agreement which is clear on what its overall purpose is and how to achieve that.
Political commentators say Mugabe’s statements about the GPA were misleading and motivated by his self-serving desire to abandon the current constitution-making process and stampede the country into early polls without the necessary reforms and preparations to ensure the outcome is not disputed again.
Mugabe expressed his unhappiness at the slow pace of the constitution-making process which has dragged on for three years now, saying he would be forced to call for polls this year in line with resolutions of the Zanu PF conference in Bulawayo last December with or without a new constitution.
This has of late been Zanu PF’s mantra as Mugabe and his loyalists desperately try to wriggle out of the GPA processes to go for early elections to suit their political designs. Mugabe’s age and frailty as well as his problematic succession issues have often been cited as the main reasons why they want early elections.
The new line which Mugabe and his party are pursuing — that the country is going to elections this year with or without a new constitution —has put the GPA’s survival in jeopardy and set the veteran leader on a collision course with Sadc leaders.
Crisis Coalition regional coordinator Dewa Mavhinga said the GPA was certainly about a new constitution as provided for in Article VI. Mavhinga said while there were existing draft constitutions like the Kariba, NCA and rejected 2000 Constitutional Commission documents, the GPA provided for the writing of a new constitution owned and driven by the people of Zimbabwe before the elections.
He said the writing of a new constitution was an essential element of the raft of reforms necessary to create a free and fair electoral environment. Without a new constitution, he said, nothing would change in terms of the electoral conditions.
“Mugabe appears either to be mistaken or to have forgotten the contents of the GPA,” said Mavhinga. “To give full effect to the fundamental right and duty of Zimbabweans to produce a new constitution by and for themselves, as provided in article VI of the GPA, it was necessary that government sets aside various constitutional drafts and genuinely consults the people and reflect their wishes in the final draft to be subjected to a national referendum,” he said.
The constitution-making process, which is now at drafting stage, has been delayed by constant fierce clashes between Zanu PF and MDC-T and other problems.
Mavhinga said current political horse-trading on the constitution rendered the wishes of the people irrelevant and has left them questioning why there was even an outreach programme when there was no intention of respecting views aired during the process.
Analysts warned at the beginning of the current constitution-making process that this exercise was doomed to fail or to produce a half-baked draft because it was firmly controlled by three self-interested political parties — which only represent a section of the society — pursuing narrow power-grabbing agendas.
He said the GPA had 25 articles and it was important for Mugabe to read and interpret the agreement in its totality rather than pick and choose and to manipulate what he wants to suit his political agenda and ambitions.
Bulawayo-based political commentator Nyamutatanga Makombe said Mugabe’s utterances showed Mugabe preparing for possible disengagement from the GPA processes and inclusive government to force the country into early elections.
Makombe said the GPA was flawed because it had many clauses which were either unclear or not tight, and grey areas which gave Mugabe an opportunity to abandon the agreement and call for elections.
Makombe said: “What Mugabe said was what may have been. Whereas the GPA is a legal document, it is steeped in high politics and this has been the main reason why we have had as many interpretations as there are interested parties. As such, it is almost difficult to tell whether Mugabe interpreted the GPA well or otherwise given the lack of clarity and gaps in the agreement.”
Makombe said Mugabe’s remarks must be seen in the context of the recent spate of violence and growing talk about elections.
“Taking this vein, one would see that what Mugabe was saying is that they are preparing for disengagement. It is very easy to disengage as the rules of engagement through GPA were flawed. Mugabe was telling the nation through an address of the chiefs that they will do everything to end the marriage and call for elections,” said Makombe.
Makombe said there was nowhere in the world where there has ever been the so-called “people-driven constitution”, hence the current process was a charade and the Kariba and 2000 drafts could have been used to write a new constitution. It would have been easier and progressive to come up with a final draft out of all these drafts which have been done, he said.
Mugabe said he had agreed with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to use the Kariba draft as a yardstick for a new constitution, but the MDC-T and MDC later somersaulted. Zanu PF now appears to be using this pretext to undermine or disrupt the current process.
So the question is: Were the MDC formations sincere or were playing to the demands of their supporters after the parties initially agreed to the Kariba draft?
Makombe said: “The constitution-making process, when one prepares the balance sheet, has more debit than credit, it is a loss. It has divided society and it is doomed to fail. There is no guarantee that it will pass the test of parties which need to agree to the draft, all-stakeholders conference, referendum and adopt in parliament through a two-thirds majority.”