Copac draft a shoddy, costly farce

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Dumisani Muleya

WHEN we last checked, Copac was expected to gobble up US$45 million before it produced the final draft constitution to be taken to a referendum — possibly in September — at a cost of another US$30 million.

This means the cost of producing a new constitution under Copac could end up being US$75 million. If Copac incurred further budget overruns, the US$45 million figure could by now have scaled US$50 million, pushing the total cost of the process to plus or minus US$80 million.
Copac overshot its initial US$21 million budget as it overran its original financial plan by a whopping US$24 million due to uncontrolled expenditures and waste. It is clear some people saw it as a money-spinning opportunity rather than a national project where public service value is more important than personal enrichment.
Compare this with the cost of the Constitutional Commission during the 1999-2000 constitution-making process. On November 29 1999, the commission submitted its report in the form of a draft constitution to the President of Zimbabwe after it had fulfilled its mandate within the stipulated time-frame of five months, at an (audited) cost of ZW$297 196 900 (or, at that time, the equivalent of  US$7 280 652).
This is despite the fact the commission consisted of 400 members: 150 MPs who constituted the core of the membership and the other 250 members drawn from the private sector and a cross-section of civil society. The commission had various committees.
Copac comprised 25 MPs selected from the three political parties in the GPA to spearhead the crafting of a new constitution. Its other important structures were the management and steering committees. Of course, there was also a secretariat.
However, by comparison the commission was far bigger than Copac in terms of organisation and size. But Copac has guzzled more resources, showing it was extravagant and wasteful.
South Africa, for instance, spent US$30 million on its constitution-making process during the 1990s, Uganda US$10 million, Ethiopia US$6 million and Eritrea US$4,5 million.
Quite clearly, Zimbabwe invested a lot of money and time in producing the Copac draft. Given the shoddy nature of the draft, it is very difficult, even if one wants to be charitable, to avoid the damning conclusion the process was an expensive charade.
A cost-benefit analysis of Copac suggests the process was run by incompetent profligates. If one looks at the draft, it is certainly not worth US$45 million.

 

Taking into account Copac, always beset by risk and uncertainty, had been struggling since April 2009 until July 19 to produce the final draft constitution, it gives the distinctive impression the organisation functioned like some sort of a slow, incompetent or corrupt bureaucracy.
Although the budgeting and costing for the process is important, the real issue is the quality of the draft which Copac produced. With the money and other resources  at its disposal, even if sometimes they came in drips and drabs, the group should have produced something  better.
However, Copac came up with a damp squib. It produced a flawed compromise document through a formula of appeasement.
The draft has clauses designed to placate President Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF (for instance, the claim in the preamble that Zimbabwe is a unitary and indivisible state), others for MDC-T (crippling Mugabe’s powers of appointment of who serves in the judiciary and independent commissions as well as limiting terms for state security service chiefs and permanent secretaries or whittling down the functions and powers of the Attorney-General), MDC (devolution), civil society (compelling Zimbabwe to ratify all international instruments) and other organised interest groups (citizenship, etc).
Eventually, in their bid to placate everybody, Copac constitution-makers managed to propitiate nobody. Besides, placation is not a basic constitutional principle.

 

Instead of a patchwork of appeasements, what people wanted was a constitution which clearly and systematically underlined popular sovereignty (that the right to rule comes from the people); limited government; separation of powers and checks and balances; structural distribution of power between the centre and the periphery vertically and horizontally and, of course, individual rights.
Although the draft tries to address one of the key issues confronting Zimbabwe today, the separation of powers by curtailing executive authority and strengthening other arms of government, parliament and the judiciary, the approach was clumsy. Reading through the draft in key areas one can easily see who the drafters had in mind while writing.

 

The process was inherently unrepresentative and its conception and framework were badly flawed, hence this sloppy and unimpressive draft which, as it has now predictably turned out, was just a costly farce.

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