HomeCommentZanu PF divided over fate of draft constitution

Candid Comment: Hiding behind a finger…

Briefings to the Zimbabwe Independent this week show Zanu PF is deeply divided over the draft constitution which is yet to be made public, with President Robert Mugabe and his inner circle, which include securocrats and the team that conducted the bloody June 2008 presidential election run-off, threatening to ditch the process if the party’s positions are not included.

However, some politburo members and Zanu PF MPs are arguing the remaining contentious issues were not so critical as to warrant the abandonment of the whole constitution-making process which has so far gobbled up US$38,17 million –– US$19,27 million from government and US$18,9 million from the UNDP.

Contentious issues include the structure of government (whether to have a president, vice-president(s) or a prime minister), devolution, the death penalty, dual citizenship, an Independent Prosecuting Authority and whether the threshold of victory for a president should be 50% of the votes cast plus one vote or a simple majority.

Mugabe has already warned he would reject the clauses he does not want in the draft. Zanu PF politburo member Jonathan Moyo, widely viewed as the party’s strategist, and others support Mugabe on this.

In an interview with the Independent on Tuesday, Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo said his party would not accept the draft in its current form.
“Whoever, whether from within or outside, thinks that we will accept this (draft) thing the way it is must be joking –– we will not accept it at all,” he said, adding that “we will not go to a referendum until we are satisfied with the draft. That is the party position.”

Gumbo added: “There is no need for negotiations on the contentious issues –– they either table what we want or we go for elections. If we are not in agreement, we will quit the process and call for elections under the Lancaster House Constitution.”

He said as far as Zanu PF was concerned the three steps in the roadmap to elections were drafting a new constitution, followed by a referendum and then elections. “If sanctions are not removed, forget about everything else. Implementation of the GPA has to be done concurrently with the removal of sanctions,” he said.

Issues in the GPA which the two MDC formations want implemented before the country can hold credible, free and fair elections include media, security sector and electoral reforms.

However, some Zanu PF politburo members and MPs who are strongly opposed to elections this year as this would cut short their parliamentary terms for the second time in four years. They say ditching the constitution-making process was tantamount to committing political suicide.
Zanu PF officials argue holding elections held under the current constitution will produce a disputed outcome again, leaving Mugabe and the party exposed.

“We will lose the support of our friends in Sadc and the AU if follow that route,” one politburo member said.  “I don’t see why we should risk that over issues which are not so crucial. These issues can be resolved and I believe we can easily come to an agreement on the seven contentious issues.”
A Zanu PF Copac member said the issues in dispute were easy to resolve and there was no need to abandon the whole process. Mugabe said recently some Copac member wanted the process to continue for them to carry on getting allowances.

According to the draft constitution seen by the Independent, the executive will comprise an executive president, one or two vice presidents, a cabinet and no prime minister. It states that there should be maximum of 30 ministers, although five more could be appointed outside parliament.

The draft constitution stipulates the maximum term of office of the president is two five-year tenures under the new constitution. The clause on the maximum age limit has been abandoned after furious protests by Zanu PF.

On devolution, the draft charter states: “Zimbabwe is a unitary state that is guided by principles of devolution of governmental functions, powers and responsibilities to all people and at all appropriate levels.”

The three tiers of government are national, provincial and local governments. On electoral systems, it was agreed to have a hybrid system, which includes first-past-the-post and proportional representation.

The election to the senate would be by proportional representation and it would consist of 80 representatives. A specific number would be reserved for each province, two seats for the disabled and 10 for the chiefs.

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