THE draft constitution produced by Copac after negotiations by its management committee to align a number of issues is now out and is being subjected to microscopic scrutiny by Zimbabweans in preparation for the Second Stakeholders’ conference and the referendum.
Debate on the draft has progressively shifted from the glaring inadequacies of process to the issues of content. The vibes among many involved in the public discourse is that the process itself leaves a lot to be desired but now it is the content that should be put to debate. This is a rational expectation of members of the public and all those who were not directly involved in the constitution-making process and producing the result draft.
It is however the inconsistency and duplicity of Zanu PF that is a grave cause for concern. Their current machinations and new demands — which are wide in terms of range and scope — effectively amount to an attempt to rewrite the whole draft. Contrary to Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa’s claims that 97% of the draft has been approved, Zanu PF’s demands for change and amendments to the draft signal an attempt to overhaul the proposed new constitution or alternatively force the process to grind to a halt.
This raises suspicions about the motive and agenda behind these new demands which they should have tabled much earlier during the process. It also raises questions as whether Zanu PF wants a new constitution in the first place or they participated in this process in response to irrestistible pressure exerted through the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
Zanu PF’s new demands — which span the preamble to the schedules — suggest many sinister motives coming from a cabal in the party’s politburo which wants to throw spanners into the works in service of narrow political and electoral agendas.
The behaviour of the party’s senior politburo officials, quite clearly backed by their party leader, shows that Zanu PF might not be interested in a new constitution after all. It now seems its participation in the process was out of pressure and a strategy to buy time to reorganise and resuscitate their inexorably declining party.
Certainly, there is a lot going on behind the scenes in Zanu PF than meets the eye. It is strange for the party’s negotiators to append their signatures to the draft constitution and then a few days down the line turn around demanding revision of half of the clauses in the same draft. This is difficult to understand given that their negotiators were supposed to have been in touch with their political party leadership and principal during negotiations.
There were many shifts and changes in party positions and by negotiators in a bid to find common ground. They eventually found ways of accommodating various party demands without necessarily compromising people’s views and the national interest.
So the new demands from Zanu PF suggest at least three things: that party negotiators were in touch with their leadership and principals but misrepresented them or did not represent them at all, negotiators were in touch with their leadership but got conflicting instructions which they ignored or were simply not in touch with their bosses.
Whichever way, the problem is in Zanu PF and should not be transferred to the constitution-making process and preparations for elections. If the party and its negotiators failed to negotiate that cannot be a problem of other parties, Copac or the people.
Besides, Zanu PF, as recent as June, came with a series of new demands contained in a 29-page document and the negotiators found ways of integrating most of those views to allow for a workable compromise to emerge. When they brought these demands it was understandable and acceptable given that the parties were still trying to find common ground.
The understanding as already indicated was that the parties were in touch with their leadership and even before they signed the document they would have put it to their principals and made the proposals for further debate where necessary.
But once they appended their signatures, it officially reflected statements of confirmation and commitment that all the parties have read the document, understood the contents and approved it on behalf of themselves, their respective parties and their principals as per their mandate.
So the new Zanu PF demands simply show the party lacks leadership, cohesion and vision. This is not new, but its behaviour on the draft constitution provides further evidence to this.
Questions must inevitably be asked on this issue to understand what is going on here. How would the Zanu PF chief negotiator Nicholas Goche, who has an intelligence background, and a senior cabinet minister and influential member of the politburo have signed the draft without his principal’s permission?
Similarly, how would Chinamsa, a lawyer, Minister of Justice and a politburo member, have signed the document without applying his mind to it in line with his party’s position and principal’s briefings and guidelines?
Besides, those demanding new changes are the very same people who brought the 29-page document recently after Copac had almost finished its job. Now again they are back with new demands — which came through the politburo as the earlier ones — showing they are either not serious or have a sinister agenda to derail, sabotage or disrupt the constitution-making process unless they get their way.
No doubt the process and the draft might have had their weaknesses, but the behaviour of a certain clique in Zanu PF — which is badly worried about the trimming of presidential powers and the impact of that on the party’s electoral prospects — is becoming disruptive and even intolerable to people who want progress towards free and fair elections.
These events confirm Zanu PF as a party that engineers chaos because it only thrives in anarchy. It is however important for Zimbabweans to realise that the country cannot grind to a halt because of interests of individuals or one political party trying to use national processes to resolve internal problems.
The draft agreed to and signed by the three parties is the most workable document in the circumstances. Zanu PF has never wanted a new constitution and sabotaged the 1999-2000 constitution-making process. Now they are at it again.
However, so much has changed since 2000.
Now parties involved in the current constitution-making process must understand there are new prevailing circumstances. The current process witnessed extreme and entrenched positions based on party and public submissions, but negotiations produced a workable compromise.
It would thus be retrogressive to throw away the current draft and once again start on ground zero. No party should be allowed to reverse the compromises made and impose new demands on other stakeholders. The reality is that all the parties in the GPA need each other. The draft is product of a GPA process, itself a compromise.
We now need seriousness, maturity and vision to put the national interest above party positions to take the country forward. Finding the middle ground, not unilateral political demands and self-serving impositions, is the name of the game.
Moyo is the director of Policy and Research Co-ordination in the MDC led by Professor Welshman Ncube. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org