JUSTICE minister and Zanu PF lead negotiator Patrick Chinamasa will be in the firing line today at a potentially-explosive extraordinary Zanu PF politburo meeting where President Robert Mugabe’s loyalists and hardliners are set to come out with guns blazing to shoot down some clauses of the controversial draft new constitution and force new amendments.
Politburo members who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday said debate at the meeting will centre mainly on the executive and presidential powers which have been diluted in the draft, condemning Mugabe to what loyalists claim is a clerical position.
Zanu PF is currently divided into three groups over the draft –– an anti-draft faction led by vocal politburo member Jonathan Moyo, another defending it which includes negotiators and Chinamasa himself and a third which is neutral.
Insiders said Mugabe appeared on Wednesday to be leaning towards Moyo’s group as he asked questions which suggested he was against some issues in the draft. Moyo has been attacking the draft through the state media, saying it contained issues that did not come from the people and clauses targeted at individuals.
The group which backs the draft reportedly includes Defence minister and party legal affairs secretary Emmerson Mnangagwa, who chairs the politburo committee that supervised the constitution-making process, and negotiators Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, Copac co-chair Paul Mangwana (who is not a politburo member but is called in when the need arises), among others. The faction led by Vice-President Joice Mujuru is said to be largely neutral.
“There will be fireworks at the politburo meeting tomorrow (today) because there are serious problems with the draft which Chinamasa and his allies will have to explain and defend,” a senior politburo member said. “The battle lines are clearly drawn. We will fight this draft which is targeted at the president, service chiefs and other individuals perceived as propping up the party.”
Warning shots have already been fired across Chinamasa’s bows.
Insiders say at the politburo meeting on Wednesday it was clear there was a strong lobby against the draft, led by party strategist and outspoken dissenter Moyo.
Senior politburo members said a jittery Chinamasa stunned the meeting on Wednesday when he said the draft was “plagiarised” from the 2000 constitutional commission draft, Kariba draft and the current constitution, prompting colleagues to whisper “so it was a cut-and-paste job”.
Sources said during his Wednesday presentation to the politburo, Chinamasa prefaced his remarks with a metaphor.
“He told the meeting that ‘you sent us to hunt for an elephant but we brought an animal we can’t describe’,” a senior politburo member said. “One politburo then said ‘you brought back a dead donkey’, prompting laughter across the table.”
However, Chinamasa braved through the presentation amid interjections and questions, although debate was not allowed since some politburo members had not yet read the draft, which is why debate was postponed to today.
“As Chinamasa presented, a lot of questions were asked although people were not allowed to comment and debate issues. Only points of clarifications were raised,” another official said. “But it was clear there are strong reservations and protests.”
The politburo recently rejected an earlier Copac draft over the contested issue of presidential power, forcing drafters to make wide-ranging changes to the document.
Excessive powers vested in the office of president since 1987 contributed to the rejection of the proposed constitution in the referendum of February 2000. It was also the main point of dispute in Global Political Agreement negotiations and the bone of contention amongst the parties in the inclusive government.
Today’s politburo meeting will also focus on term limits proposed by the draft for security chiefs, permanent secretaries, judges, chiefs and other key constitutional posts.
Senior politburo members told the Independent yesterday they would challenge Chinamasa on the proposed executive structure, particularly the curtailing of sweeping powers which Mugabe currently enjoys, and the delegation of some of those powers to parliament that, according to the draft, would now play a major role in the appointment of members of independent commissions.
Parliament will be involved in the appointment of elections, anti-corruption, human rights, media, gender and national peace and reconciliation commissions, while the Judicial Services Commission (JSC) will select judges. The president will now only appoint from a list submitted by the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders.
The appointment of the chief justice, deputy chief justice, judge president of the High Court, prosecutor-general and all other judges will now be done by the president from a list of three nominees submitted by the JSC.
Chinamasa will also have to explain why there are term limits for the president of the Council of Chiefs and why the Council of Chiefs can no longer nominate a person to the JSC.
The appointment of provincial governors is no longer the prerogative of the president.
The governor will be appointed by the president from the party with the highest number of National Assembly seats in the province or, if there is no clear winner, he or she will be drawn from a political party which received the highest number of votes cast in provinces in the general elections. The president will ask those parties to submit names of two qualified persons for the appointment of provincial governor of that province.
Some of the key appointments which the president can still make as in the current constitution include ambassadors, Attorney-General and security chiefs.
“Party hardliners such as Moyo, Didymus Mutasa and Simon Khaya Moyo are uncomfortable with the structure of the executive, which they say reduces Mugabe to a mere clerk,” said a senior politburo member.
“The hardliners and party loyalists are angry and also worried about reduction of Mugabe’s powers. The new draft reduces the president to a figurehead, whose job would be to rubber-stamp the appointments, although some people disagree with this assessment.
“The argument is that the president should not be reduced to a clerk because he is directly elected and should therefore retain significant executive powers because his power is derived from the electorate. There should be a clear separation of power, and not delegation of executive powers to parliament.”
Chinamasa is also likely to be criticised for the creation of a National Prosecuting Authority, removing that function from the Attorney-General’s Office which, party hardliners say, was plagiarised from the South African constitution.
Zanu PF also set up a technical team which included Mnangagwa, Chinamasa, and Goche, and a five-member technical team to handle the constitution-making process. Members of the technical team include Jonathan Moyo, former Matabeleland North MP and chair Jacob Mudenda, Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe chairperson Tafataona Mahoso, Zimbabwe Mining Development Corporation chairperson Godwills Masimirembwa, and author Alexander Kanengoni. The team is also now divided over the draft constitution, insiders say.