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Constitution reduced to farce

THE Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference held in Harare this week ended in a predictable deadlock, with the three main political parties involved in the Global Political Agreement simply maintaining their positions and digging in.

There was no agreement or movement, except an understanding that the process must now go to the next step –– which is parliament.

However, the principals, particularly President Robert Mugabe, want the process to go to their level for them to resolve disputed issues to suit their political designs.

The impasse is now mainly on Zanu PF’s proposed amendments to the draft constitution calculated to restore curtailed presidential powers and assist Mugabe in his problematic re-election bid next year.

Over the years, Mugabe has largely remained in power partly because of the imperial powers he wields. Without sweeping controls, he would be gone by now. The Zanu PF politburo, after a series of day and night meetings lasting close to 50 hours, recently overhauled the signed draft and demanded far-reaching changes.

The main objective is to restore presidential powers, not improve the draft’s quality.

So after Mugabe failed to convince his fellow principals to meet and resolve the impasse before the second stakeholders’ conference, the politburo resolved the draft would be taken to this week’s meeting where Zanu PF was to push for changes even though everybody knew that was going to fail.

Realising this would not work in a conference situation with thousands of delegates, Zanu PF negotiators, Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, basically duped their counterparts from other parties at a recent management committee meeting, telling them they also didn’t want the draft to be changed at the conference but without saying why.

It then transpired later the reason Zanu PF negotiators took that position was part of Mugabe’s grand strategy of ensuring the deadlock remained to allow principals to intervene to overhaul the draft to suit their political and elections agendas.

That is why Mugabe has of late been holding meetings with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and deputy premier Arthur Mutambara, cajoling them to agree to a strategy to take away the constitution-making process from Copac, a parliamentary body, to government or cabinet to sideline MPs, negotiators and MDC leader Welshman Ncube, among others. Zanu PF had before the conference tried to destabilise the situation by positioning its surrogates to challenge the process in the courts, although that dismally failed.

The plot was to assist the party to push through its amendments using the contentious Copac national report.

When the conference met amid a rising tide of problems and controversy, it became impossible to resolve the deadlock. Even the format of the conference was designed to ensure it becomes a mere talk-shop. The idea is that this will then be taken to the principals –– precisely Mugabe’s plan.

In the end the conference predictably became a sheer waste of time and resources, just like the whole Copac charade through which parties are fighting for political space and leverage ahead of crucial elections next year.

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