ZANU PF’s proposed amendments to the latest Copac draft constitution, which largely curtail President Robert Mugabe’s imperial powers widely blamed for his authoritarian rule and ruining the country, are likely to be rejected ahead of elections by the people clamouring for reforms that promote democracy, human rights and good governance, among other things.
Report by Brian Chitemba
Analysts say if the amendments are to be put to a referendum as part of what effectively amounts to an alternative Zanu PF draft, they would be rejected by voters mainly because the agenda behind them — the attempt to retain the status quo — is thinly-veiled. The far-reaching changes are seen as an effort to save and reinstate the current executive presidency, with all its imperious powers, to defend Mugabe’s waning career and ward off his possible defeat in the coming crucial elections by June next year.
After the Copac draft was completed on July 18, the Zanu PF politburo held meetings day and night which lasted about 50 hours ostensibly to rewrite the document to “reflect people’s views” although the move was designed to retain Mugabe’s sweeping powers significantly whittled down by the draft.
The two MDC formations have rejected the amendments off-hand, insisting there would be no further negotiations on the draft with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is also MDC-T leader, saying “we cannot negotiate in perpetuity”. He even rejected the idea put forward by MDC leader Welshman Ncube of putting both the Copac and Zanu PF drafts to the referendum, arguing it would “complicate our people’s lives”.
Tsvangirai’s suggestion: “My advice to Zanu PF is vote against the Copac draft if they are not happy.”
However, Zanu PF negotiator Patrick Chinamasa said negotiating was the only way forward given the nature of the process. “The PM is aware that the constitution-making process is built on consensus and that without the support of Zanu PF the process will not move forward,” he said.
When it gets to parliament, parties need each other because the draft requires a two-thirds majority to pass. No party has such a majority in parliament.
Zanu PF’s extraordinary politburo session last Saturday insisted its alterations be incorporated into the Copac draft despite resistance by coalition partners, arguing they represented “the views of the people” as captured during the constitution-making’s outreach programme.
Mugabe handed over his party’s amendments to Tsvangirai and Ncube last week.
After Copac produced its last draft, incorporating last minute Zanu PF proposals contained in a 29-page documents with over 200 changes, the MDC parties quickly endorsed the revised draft charter, but the politburo virtually shredded the document, making wholesale modifications while expunging chapters, clauses and sections including those proposing presidential running mates and devolution.
Zanu PF’s draft retains the current imperial presidency by restoring all the presidential powers, and consolidating them through a new provision stating cabinet can only exercise authority under the direction of the president who takes precedence over other people.
The Copac draft, on which Zanu PF negotiators appended their signatures alongside those of their MDC counterparts, provides for executive powers to be partly dispersed to the legislature and judiciary.
Although parties involved in the constitution-making process are all making claims that people’s views have not been captured and reflected adequately in the Copac draft, they are either unwilling or unable to publish the national report for people to read and make their own conclusions.
Ncube described the Zanu PF draft as worse than the current Lancaster House constitution amended 19 times, mainly to consolidate power in Mugabe’s hands.
However, Zanu PF politburo member and party strategist Jonathan Moyo has defended the amendments, saying they purportedly reflect “people’s views”.
Analysts say Zanu PF hardliners like Moyo want to use Mugabe to ensure early elections under the current constitution to secure their own uncertain future.
Political analyst Rodrick Fayayo said one of the challenges in the current constitution-making was the emergence of self-centred extremists who include Moyo and others within Zanu PF ranks.
“Zanu PF political extremists’ rely on Mugabe for their political survival,” said Fayayo. “Without Mugabe, they are doomed. It is against this background that they want, and desperately so, to have elections like yesterday under the current constitution or any other which they prefer,” Fayayo said.
MDC director of research and policy Qhubani Moyo said Zanu PF’s amendments were designed to provoke a deadlock to enable Mugabe to call for elections under the Lancaster House constitution which tilts the playing field in their favour.
He said the Zanu PF hardliners would not be open to progressive negotiations because they knew their survival lies in an imperial presidency and an unstable environment.
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said taking the two drafts to the referendum would further polarise the already tense political environment, triggering violence and intimidation before the elections.
“If we have a Copac document and the so-called Zanu PF document or other drafts for people to choose during the referendum, what it means is we are simply going to have an election where people choose what is perceived to be MDC or Zanu PF,” Matinenga said. “Such situations are often characterised by political violence and it means we are going to be in election mode for up to 15 months and violence for a long time. Zimbabweans do not want to see that.”
The latest Zanu PF demands appear to be a clear indication that the party is determined to spoil the already delayed constitution-making process, despite earlier complaints about the constitution-making process dragging on. This has betrayed Zanu PF’s “throw-in-the-spanners at the works” strategy to scuttle the adoption of a new constitution.
Zapu spokesperson Methuseli Moyo said Zanu PF was likely to face resistance from Zimbabweans because of the reactionary amendments, particularly on devolution and dual citizenship.
“It is the same Zanu PF that created economic turmoil which drove away millions of people out of the country, but now wants to deny them dual citizenship,” said Moyo. “That is going to spark a fight with the masses.”
Moyo said Zanu PF’s resistance to devolution was futile because the current situation demands that power must be distributed from the centre to the provinces through an effective decentralisation model.
He said the likely scenario out of many other possible ones was that Zanu PF amendments would be rejected and Mugabe would call for polls using the current constitution.
Due to the long-running battle among coalition partners, Sadc has repeatedly urged Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC to conclude the constitution-making process to pave way for fresh elections.
Sadc mediator and South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team arrived in Harare on Tuesday to get an update on the contentious constitution-making process.
But analysts say major obstacles have to be overcome for the process to move forward.
“What is simply going to happen is that supposing all the drafts were put before the referendum and people decided to vote for the Copac draft for instance, then Zanu PF can decide to block it in parliament where it needs two-thirds approval by MPs in the House of Assembly,” constitutional expert Greg Lennington said.
As matters stand, the situation remains touch-and-go, showing major hurdles ahead and the country may well be heading for renewed trouble before and after what promises to be watershed elections unless a breakthrough is found soon.