PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe, walking a tightrope over the contentious Copac draft constitution after other political principals in the coalition government rejected his proposed unilateral amendments to restore his imperial presidency, was forced to call an emergency politburo meeting on Saturday to discuss the stalemate.
Report by Faith Zaba/Wongai Zhangazha
Zanu PF party insiders told the Zimbabwe Independent on Friday night the rejection of the amendments by the two MDC parties has left Mugabe, battling to retain his sweeping powers after they were curtailed in the Copac draft, panicky following a bruising encounter with Sadc leaders in Maputo, Mozambique, last weekend.
Mugabe is angry that the draft takes away his overbearing powers and leaves him even weaker and vulnerable to defeat in the next elections.
Zanu PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo on Thursday confirmed the politburo will convene on Saturday but refused to give details on the emergency meeting set four days before their scheduled monthly gathering. The politburo normally meets once on the last Wednesday of every month.
Mugabe on Tuesday gave his party amendments to fellow principals, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry & Trade minister Welshman Ncube. A fierce war of words subsequently ensued.
Zanu PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa on Thursday said the MDC parties were disrupting national processes by rejecting his party’s demands. “If they are saying that they won’t compromise, then they are closing the door to national processes,” he said.
“We should not approach this issue with anger like (MDC leader) Professor Welshman Ncube and Priscilla (Misihairabwi-Mushonga –– MDC chief negotiator) are doing because it is a national issue. As far as my party is concerned we are committed to going to the referendum. We should not be notorious for bickering.”
Mugabe is expected to meet Tsvangirai and Ncube next week to discuss the issue.
After working day and night rewriting the draft constitution, Mugabe now finds his recommendations facing rejection and will tomorrow go back to the politburo to discuss the situation as Sadc leaders expect principals to resolve the impasse and take forward the constitution-making process which is part of preparations for free and fair elections next year.
While Mugabe wants wholesale adoption of his party’s amendments, the two MDC groups are opposed to that although they have proposed taking both documents –– the Copac and Zanu PF drafts –– to a referendum.
A senior Zanu PF politburo official said his colleagues were opposed to this as it could end up being “a referendum on Mugabe and the party” instead of a plebiscite on the draft constitution. Sources said the politburo meeting would look into possible scenarios of what could happen to the constitution-making process going forward.
“The meeting at the weekend is important because we have to devise strategies and tactics of dealing with this complicated situation. One thing for sure is that we don’t want the referendum to end up as a vote on our leader and the party,” a senior politburo member said.
Another politburo member said: “There are many scenarios of what could happen going.”
Zanu PF politburo members want the principals to meet and discuss the draft. Some of the politburo heavyweights anticipate three scenarios going forward:
• Principals will meet and agree on all the changes proposed by Zanu PF;
• Principals will meet and secure a compromise through give and take;
• Principals will meet, have intense discussions and end up agreeing the constitution-making process must continue until after the elections,
• Principals will meet and get deadlocked, leading Sadc intervention and solution, or
• They will meet and after a series of negotiations the process collapses.
Already other principals are anticipating serious problems ahead. Ncube said on Thursday they would soon write to Sadc to formally inform them of the stalemate so its facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma could mediate.
He was, however, quick to point out they had already proposed to Sadc two options to deal with a possible stalemate.
“It is now up to President Zuma to come to Zimbabwe to mediate,” Ncube said. “We will notify the facilitator and troika chair (Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete) that there is a stalemate, which in any event he already knows about. We will now duly advise Sadc that we have a stalemate.”
However, Ncube said the first option is to try to convince Zanu PF to abandon its demands to amend the draft. If that fails they would propose to the referendum with the Copac and Zanu PF drafts.
MDC-T secretary-general Tendai Biti said yesterday Zanu PF should allow people decide on the Copac through a referendum.
“The draft has been signed by Copac and is complete in accordance with Article 6 of the global political agreement. Article 6 doesn’t say that each of the political parties have to look at the draft and make amendments,” Biti said.
“If there is going to be a problem, in pursuant with the Maputo communiqué, the facilitator will come to Zimbabwe and mediate. The proposal to take the two drafts to a referendum can be a solution but it is not an ideal one.”
Zuma’s international advisor Lindiwe Zulu said Zuma could be coming to Harare again to engage the principals unless a solution is quickly found. “We are aware Zanu PF has completed its draft and given it to the two principals. As per the Sadc recommendations the facilitator must engage with Zanu PF and other political parties on the way forward,” she said. “The Zanu PF draft I understand has already been given to our (South African) embassy and we expect to receive it anytime, then we will be able to make plans to come to Harare if needs be.”
In his report to the Sadc troika meeting in Maputo last week, Zuma admitted it was difficult to prescribe a solution at the time.
“MDC-T and MDC-N are of the view that the only way forward, if there are substantial issues for renegotiation on the part of Zanu PF, is that the current draft be put to a straight ‘yes’ or ‘no’ referendum, or that the current draft and a Zanu PF draft be put to a referendum,” Zuma said in his report.
“Alternatively the referendum includes not only a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on the constitution as a whole but also a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote on each of the clauses of the constitution with regards to which Zanu PF has an alternative formulation.”