Minefield awaits draft constitution

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Herbert Moyo/Paidamoyo Muzulu

THE Select Committee of Parliament on the new Constitution (Copac) has finally delivered the much-awaited draft constitution after protracted wrangling among unity government parties, including vitriolic attacks, walk-outs and even violence — incidents which seemed certain to consign the process to a stillbirth.
Although the process survived all these tribulations so far, the path ahead still remains a political minefield; strewn with pitfalls and dangers that could derail the new draft constitution and preparations for free and fair elections.

 

Although the draft has been signed, it is still facing serious challenges as Zanu PF — which produced a 29-page document containing proposed additions and changes last month — has come back with a series of new demands despite its negotiators having signed the document.

 

 

If the process survives the latest turbulence, it will still have to weather the storm across the second stakeholders’ conference, parliament, referendum and parliament again before getting the president’s assent.

 

 

Zanu PF hardliners, whose voice appears to be politburo member Jonathan Moyo, are proposing a raft of new amendments to the draft, raising fears the fate of the document lies in how the balance of forces plays out in the divided Zanu PF and the two MDC parties.

 

 

The power relations within and between parties in the inclusive government will determine the course of the constitution-making process going forward.

 

 

Zanu PF hardliners appear determined to subvert the process in order to have the next elections under the current Lancaster House constitution which heavily tilts the electoral playing field in favour of their leader, President Robert Mugabe and his party.

 

 

So much is at stake in this process fuelling divisions and chaos mainly in Zanu PF. There have been public spats between Moyo — who regularly attacks Copac in the state media — and Zanu PF Copac co-chair Paul Mangwana, showing tensions within their party over the issue.

 

 

Last week Mangwana described Moyo, Zanu PF’s Copac technical committee member Godwills Masimirembwa and constitutional law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku as “angels of the devil” following the trio’s criticims of the draft constitution.

 

While many in Zanu PF may support the draft, there is a small but powerful clique loyal to Mugabe, which includes Moyo and other diehards, that is opposed the document in a bid to preserve the status quo ahead of crucial elections.

 

 

In a recent assessment titled Copac Final draft: A study in mischief, Moyo complained about the “systematic weakening of state institutions in general and in particular the total and unmitigated onslaught on the executive arm of government”, showing his fears that this process would leave Mugabe even weaker and more ineffective just before the next elections.

 

 

 
“Its (draft) crafters have taken way too far beyond rationality and acceptable norms their personal issues with Mugabe, the (Zimbabwe) Defence Forces commander Constantine Chiwenga, (Police) Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Attorney General Johannes Tomana, Chiefs Council president Fortune Charumbira and a host of unwanted permanent secretaries,” wrote Moyo in the Herald recently.

 

 

Moyo warned Global Political Agreement negotiators “should be joking if they think their folly will be entertained willy-nilly just like that”.

 

 

Over time it has become clear Moyo and other Mugabe adherents fear the new constitution would further weaken their party and leader, risking defeat in the next polls.

 

 

Former Zimbabwe ambassador to China Christopher Mutsvangwa made similar remarks in March at a public discussion in Harare, warning against using the constitution-making exercise to effect “regime change”.

 

 

Against this backdrop, Zanu PF hardliners seem determined to either get a new constitution they want or derail the process if they can’t get their way.

 

 

Political analyst Jonathan Gandari says Zanu PF is suffering from nostalgia and wishes to relive its glory of the past. “It (proposing amendments) is meant to unwind what the negotiators have agreed on because it is unimaginable that the politburo was in the dark over those clauses all along,” he said.

 

 

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga agreed saying Zanu PF hawks are demanding amendments in the hope the draft would be rejected so the next elections can be held under the Lancaster House constitution which they prefer.

 

 

“It appears Zanu PF has made the assessment that a new constitution and its attendant reforms would favour the MDC in the forthcoming elections, hence the determination to frustrate and derail the process in order to push for next polls to be held under the current Lancaster House constitution which they feel favours them (Zanu PF),” said Mavhinga.

 

 

The Copac draft contains a number of clauses that whittle down presidential powers, especially in relation to cabinet, parliament and senior appointments.

 

 

Although the appointment of security service chiefs basically remains the same, their terms are now fixed and the role and functions of intelligence services have been brought under the control of parliament.

 

 

The Copac draft also proposes that everything related to elections be under the Zimbabwe Election Commission, from voter registration to results announcement, removing key Zanu PF partisans like Tobaiwa Mudede from the electoral process.

Such changes, among many others, have forced the likes of Moyo and Masimirembwa to panic and attack the draft in a bid to reverse incremental reforms gained.

 

 

Sections of civil society are also denouncing the draft, albeit for different reasons to Zanu PF. A number of civic groups right from the beginning warned the constitution-making process was flawed and would produce a defective document, something which has now been borne out.

Madhuku, National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson, is leading the criticism of the draft, arguing the process was not inclusive and the product is thus deficient.

 

 

However, Media Centre director Earnest Mudzengi says Zanu PF is within its rights to repeatedly change the draft as the process allowed that and it was a negotiated document.

 

 

“We are heading for a stalemate which is likely to produce two outcomes,” said Mudzengi. “Either we hold elections under the current constitution or under the Kariba draft. It wouldn’t be difficult for the parties to go back to the Kariba draft because it is a document already agreed on and signed by the parties themselves.”

 

 

However, Madhuku says the country should not preoccupy itself with debating the process anymore, but should now concentrate on the content and referendum.

 

 

“We should allow the Copac draft to be put to a referendum so that the people of Zimbabwe decide what they want,” Madhuku said. “However, I would vote ‘NO’ because this is not a good draft.”

 

 
The two MDC formations have endorsed the draft and will campaign for a ‘YES’ vote, setting the stage for a bruising contest which could turn out to be a test run just before elections. The NCA will lead the ‘NO’ vote.

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