AFTER holding drawn out day and night politburo meetings, Zanu PF has finally come up with its much-awaited proposed amendments to the draft constitution produced by Copac and handed them over to the principals and party leaders on Tuesday.
Zanu PF recommendations are a product of the party’s militant wing and hawks fighting in Mugabe’s corner. The sabre-rattlers are battling to preserve the status quo and protect Mugabe ahead of crucial elections by June or so next year.
It must be appreciated this is the same combative group which wanted elections last year or this year — with or without a new constitution — but was stopped in its tracks by defiant Zimbabweans and Sadc leaders who want to ensure free and fair polls with a credible outcome.
There was another faction in Zanu PF which wanted the current Copac draft constitution as it looked beyond Mugabe and plotted to lay the ground for it to take over using the constitution-making process. This group was thwarted by Mugabe’s diehards who often pretend to be nationalists and flag-wavers when their interests are transparently about the pursuit of power and personal aggrandisement.
And then there was a group of neutrals who were not interested in the issue or did not care whatever the outcome. Of course, this being an organisation which is not monolithic, there were other cross-cutting individuals and cliques with overlapping interests.
However, after Mugabe’s adherents angrily protested against the Copac draft — admittedly very flawed and shoddy — the politburo took over and rewrote the document, winding back the clock of reform.
Although there were some genuine individuals who wanted to come up with a good constitution for the nation and posterity, their good objectives became conflated with narrow party political agendas, reducing the whole exercise to Mugabe’s battle for political survival.
Predictably, Zanu PF’s suggested changes (although some were good and progressive) overall amounted to nothing but a bid to restore the constitutional status quo. As widely feared, the recommendations were simply about restoring Mugabe’s sweeping executive powers whittled down in the current draft. The amendments largely underline regression in political terms and a slide back to authoritarianism.
The only difference between the current constitution and the Copac draft if amended along the lines of Zanu PF’s proposals, would be the pretentious liberation struggle ethos added to the document which taken as a whole would be one of the most retrogressive draft constitutions produced locally yet.
Instead of reworking the draft while leaving its basic structure and underlying philosophy intact, Zanu PF went further to change it by capturing its populist posturing on the liberation struggle, indigenisation and youth empowerment that now permeate the entire document at a time when Mugabe is struggling to solidly identify himself and his party with the past.
If Mugabe and his party have their way, the Copac draft would be worse than the current Lancaster House constitution in many respects. The draft is already bad enough on its own and everyone agrees. So amending the draft through hidebound pitches and suggestions would make it even more sloppy and incompatible with a modern, civilised and democratic society.
As noted by Welshman Ncube, the Zanu PF amendments restore Mugabe’s sweeping executive powers and eradicate devolution entirely from the draft by deleting all references to dispersal of executive authority.
The changes expunge the presidential running mate provisions and replace them with the current system with the new provision that in the event of the office of president becoming vacant, the replacement will be chosen by the party to which the president belongs and reposes all executive authority in the president by scrapping the provision which vests it in the president and cabinet. They effectively reconstitute the imperial presidency by restoring virtually all the current presidential powers and even add a new provision that cabinet can only exercise authority under the direction of the president. They also restore the current presidential immunity provisions.
Add to this restoration of the president’s powers of appointment and the removal of provisions requiring a law to regulate the Central Intelligence Organisation to ensure it is non-partisan, professional and national in character, it becomes even more clearer this was about resisting change to preserve the status quo and Mugabe’s toxic leadership. Zanu PF must either adjust or die.