UPROAR in the constitution-making process triggered by President Robert Mugabe’s plot for principals to hijack the exercise for personal political agendas is fuelling widespread conflict in the volatile situation.
Report by Faith Zaba/Owen Gagare
Cross-party alliances are emerging between negotiators and Copac members to stop Zanu PF bigwigs in their tracks.
The explosive emergency is already catching the attention of Sadc leaders and facilitator, South African President Jacob Zuma who sprung into action on Monday after MDC leader Welshman Ncube boycotted the opening session of the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference over deputy premier Arthur Mutambara’s presence in the programme.
Diplomats told the Zimbabwe Independent yesterday Sadc was closely monitoring the political and security situation in the country as implementation of the polls roadmap and preparations for free and fair elections reach a critical stage.
Following his attempts to cajole Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to help him seize control of the constitution-making process, Mugabe’s actions have inadvertently triggered a revolt within Copac by leaders of the two MDC parties angered by covert efforts to sabotage the process which has taken more than three years and gobbled about US$50 million.
More than US$1 million was further spent this week alone at the conference.
Ncube, still frozen out of discussions on the constitution-making process despite a Sadc resolution to include him and not Mutambara, has been hectically lobbying behind the scenes to form a broad alliance to oppose the original principals.
Sources say Ncube, who is also the Industry and Commerce minister, has managed to rope in MDC-T chief negotiator Tendai Biti, who is also Finance minister, Minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs Eric Matinenga and MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, among others, to fight Mugabe’s plot to hijack the process.
MDC-T leaders are dismayed Tsvangirai could well be part of plans by principals to take over the Copac process, although the premier has feebly distanced himself from the initiative.
Efforts to get comment from Tsvangirai to clarify his position were unsuccessful as he was out of the country. But senior MDC-T officials, including Biti, Matinenga and Mwonzora, have made it clear they are opposed to the idea of principals taking over the process to change or rewrite the draft.
Ncube and his allies are arguing the constitution-making process cannot be taken over by government or cabinet like Mugabe wants because it is a parliamentary process under Article VI of the Global Political Agreement (GPA).
The article deals with the constitution-making process and mandates Copac to take charge of the process until it is debated in parliament and subjected to a referendum.
Mugabe, hoping to effect wholesale amendments to the draft, has been trying to rope in Tsvangirai and Mutambara to assist him in his agenda.
Mugabe wants to restore diluted presidential powers in a bid to recover lost influence through wholesale amendments to the draft ahead of elections. Zanu PF changes were fiercely resisted at the stakeholders’ conference this week.
Earlier this month Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara summoned Matinenga — whom they want to be the pointman in the process after sidelining or disbanding — to inform him of plans to form a cabinet committee to oversee the constitution-making exercise, but he rejected the task, saying it violated the GPA.
Matinenga this week confirmed being summoned. He said principals must not interfere with the process.
“I am sure the principals will meet to discuss, but I hope they do not meet to interfere with the process,” he said.
“I sincerely hope when they do meet, it will be within the parameters of Article VI. We are simply saying we should adhere to the constitution — we have made rules and we must abide by those rules in letter and spirit.”
However, an undeterred Mugabe this week told delegates at the conference that principals will have the final say.
Mugabe’s plan has, however, caused further rifts within the coalition government with Ncube, Biti, Matinenga and others joining forces to thwart his plans.
Information at hand shows in fact the majority of Copac members, MPs and some senior officials within Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC are resisting attempts to allow principals to rewrite the draft constitution and have the final say.
“We will fight them, the principals. We will not allow the process to be taken away from Copac,” one MDC-T official said.
While none of the Zanu PF officials will be able to stand up to Mugabe in public, they are supporting MDC leaders behind the scenes.
Biti told the Independent: “There is no one outside Copac that has powers to amend that draft. If there are any misgivings, let the people of Zimbabwe be the referees, let them decide. As far as we are concerned, let us not rewrite the GPA, let us not incorporate what is not there.”
He added: “This process is bigger than the principals and Zanu PF’s chaos faction, the clique of hardliners. As MDC, we have a resolution and we will just go back to the national executive council. We are not going to re-negotiate the draft.”
He said amendments would only be made on clauses whose proposal was unanimously agreed on.
Faced with resistance, Mugabe is said to be now mooting plans to move the constitution-making programme to the Attorney-General’s (AG) Office, thus making it a government process.
Sources say Mugabe plans to assign AG Johannes Tomana and top judges to take over the re-drafting process. Names suggested include Chief Justice Godfrey Chidyausiku and Supreme Court Judge Rita Makarau as they were involved in the botched 1999-2000 constitutional commission process.
After the stakeholders’ conference, Ncube remained adamant Mugabe and his fellow principals must not be allowed to unilaterally overhaul the draft, saying it must now go to parliament and then referendum without amendments. He said this was in line with the GPA and Sadc resolutions on the issue.
“There is a Sadc Maputo resolution to that effect,” Ncube said.
Part of the Sadc Maputo communique reads: “Summit resolved that if there are any difficulties with regard to the constitution and implementation of agreements, the facilitator should be called upon to engage the parties and assist them resolve such issues, bearing in mind the timeframes and the necessity to hold free and fair elections.”
Sources said when Zuma spoke to Ncube on Monday to persuade him to remain in the constitution-making process, he also indicated Sadc was closely monitoring the situation and was ready to intervene in terms of the GPA, its facilitation mandate and resolutions and also as a guarantor of Zimbabwe’s political agreement.