Constitution-making process a farce

THE Copac Second All-Stakeholders’ conference held in Harare this week was reduced to a mere talk-shop with delegates failing to resolve the imbroglio dogging the controversial draft constitution, providing the clearest evidence yet that the constitution-making process is a charade.

Report by Brian Chitemba

The two-day indaba, which gobbled up US$1,2 million on top of the close to US$50 million already spent, ended with a deadlock.

Zanu PF stuck to its position in a bid shred the Copac draft by introducing a raft of alterations to maintain the constitutional status quo ahead of crucial elections next year.

The two MDC formations also maintained their positions, leaving the process locked in stalemate, while creating an opportunity for President Robert Mugabe to intervene to hijack the exercise.

Insiders say Sadc is also moving to intervene.

Conference delegates compiled reports highlighting their positions in 18 thematic chapters but the issues would only be resolved by the principals.

The same contentious issues, including presidential powers, judiciary, devolution of power, dual citizenship, security sector reforms, the proposed National Prosecuting Authority, role of chiefs, and independent commissions, which dominated debate in the run-up to the conference, remained unresolved.

Some observers have questioned the logic of wasting close to US$50 million in a moribund economy to write a new so-called people-oriented constitution when the principals, President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, intend to determine the outcome in moves aimed at protecting their narrow political interests.

Although Zimbabweans expressed their views during the outreach programme, most of what they raised has been ignored by the three parties battling for political space ahead of elections.

Sources told the Zimbabwe Independent Mugabe and Tsvangirai had already agreed that all contentious issues would be negotiated by a cabinet technical committee to be chaired by Mutambara and comprising ministers from Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC and other officials, a move which has sparked outrage among negotiators.

This is part of a wider plot by Mugabe to hijack the constitution-making process from Copac to push through his party’s politburo amendments designed to restore his executive powers ahead of polls.

Last week, Mugabe met Tsvangirai and agreed to form a cabinet committee to spearhead an implementation mechanism for all agreed Global Political Agreement (GPA) issues. Although Mugabe has blatantly declared principals will have the final say, Tsvangirai has said party leaders will only provide guidance despite persistent claims of collusion at the top.

But MDC leader Welshman Ncube, who is also Industry and Commerce minister, refused to endorse the proposed committee, arguing the constitution-making process is a wholly Copac-driven process and has nothing to do with cabinet.

Ncube boycotted the official opening of the stakeholders’ conference on Monday after Mutambara was smuggled into the programme as one of the official speakers.

The Sadc facilitation team led by South African President Jacob Zuma’s international relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu intervened and persuaded Ncube to attend the thematic committee debates.

Sources said Zulu phoned Zuma who had a conversation with Ncube in which he firmly emphasised the regional block would not tolerate efforts to hijack or collapse the process which is central to free and fair elections next year.

Zuma, sources said, would ensure the writing of a new constitution is not hijacked by individuals while undermining the GPA and elections preparations.

Afetr speaking to Zuma, Ncube said he would lodge a formal complaint with Sadc highlighting the continued violation of the GPA by Mugabe.
Although Mugabe declared the principals would have the final say on the draft constitution, Article VI of the GPA stipulates that a parliamentary select committee, in this case Copac, would lead the process.

While Copac is celebrating successfully convening the stakeholders’ conference, political pundits insist the constitution-making process has become a farce.

About 70% of the 1 200 conference delegates were drawn from civil society with the majority invited by political parties, resulting in most of the non-governmental organisations boycotting the indaba. Civil society groups are mere window-dressers.

Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora however defended the process.
“Delegates submitted their feedback on the draft in the form of reports which are now with Copac. The select committee shall soon be meeting to deliberate on the way forward for the process,” said Mwonzora.

“Now that the draft has been presented to the stakeholders, the next stage will be the production of a report on the constitution-making process, which includes the draft constitution for debate in parliament. After the debate in parliament, Zimbabweans will be expected to vote in a referendum to decide,” he said.

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