Mutambara an imposter: Biti

HARARE - Finance minister Tendai Biti, who is also secretary-general of the MDC formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, has insisted that his party would oppose changes made by Zanu PF to the final draft constitution.

In this interview with Voice of America’s Violet Gonda (VD), Tendai Biti (TB) talks about the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) mediation process, and accuses Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara of being an “imposter to democracy” with “no legitimate claim” to the MDC presidency.

Gonda started by asking the MDC lead negotiator to talk about the constitution deadlock.

TB: I am thoroughly going through the Zanu PF draft — you can’t even call it a counter proposal. It’s a stand alone document with little relation to the work that we have painstakingly done over the last three years, which we concluded on July 18, 2012.

We are disappointed that this document is such an asymmetrical document to the things that we painstakingly agreed to on the basis of give and take. So there is more than bad faith being reflected by Zanu PF.

VG: So can you tell us some of the key issues that Zanu PF is proposing?

TB: They have basically altered this document fundamentally. I am summarising on the key issues — they have altered the provision on citizenship. The agreed draft makes it very clear that any offspring, any descendant born in Zimbabwe of a Sadc citizen is a citizen of Zimbabwe by birth.

So you are talking of the thousands of immigrant labour that is in Zimbabwe from Malawi, from Mozambique, from Zambia who were born here. You recall that these were made stateless and citizen-less by Zanu PF in 2000 unless you had renounced your citizenship — that is now gone.

Secondly, they have drastically altered the provisions to deal with the national objectives of the state. For instance there is now a stand-alone provision that deals with the issue of indigenisation and empowerment.

Everyone knows that indigenisation is temporal. The constitution which we had drafted allowed for equality but recognised that they took affirmative action.

So they are now making something that is temporal to the extent that affirmative action is only used to redress a situation but once the balance has been achieved it dies — but that’s now a permanent situation.

This is most unfortunate because all of the parties on the table have got their own party policies — you can’t take your party policy and then put it in the constitution.

Another party policy that has been put in this constitution is their preferred position that all youths should go for a national youth service in this country.

That was not in the original constitution but it is now in this constitution. So this is most unfortunate.

They have also totally abolished the issue of devolution. They are now calling it decentralisation and you will not find the word devolution in this provision.

We had also, in the agreed constitution, come up with a President who was subject to clear separation of powers between the judiciary and the legislature and a president who exercises executive power sharing it with Cabinet.

This constitution reverts to the situation where the President only has got executive powers and that Cabinet only sits at his insistence.

The current draft that we had negotiated obliges the President to seek the authority of Parliament before he declares war but in this one the President has got a blank cheque and so forth. They have recreated the old imperial President that some of us spent all our lives fighting.

You remember we had created an independent office of the National Prosecuting Authority and a stand-alone Attorney General who would be appointed by he President to advice the President?

But “no” says Zanu PF. They have abolished that and that same Attorney General who will sit in Cabinet, who will sit in Parliament is also the one that will attend to the issues of prosecution. They have also virtually abolished the Constitutional Court.

What they have simply said is that the Supreme Court will sit as the Constitutional Court. So that independent stand alone Constitutional Court, that we had created, also falls away.

Zanu PF has done a lot of things but I have just tried to highlight the major changes that they have done to this final draft constitution.

VG: So what is the response from your party?

TB: As far as we are concerned there should be no further negotiations on this constitution and let the people of Zimbabwe now decide in a referendum whether or not the political parties, who negotiated this draft, drew from the people’s views as expressed in the outreach programme. So in our view let the people of Zimbabwe be the referees in this matter.

VG: But how will you force a referendum if Zanu PF is refusing to move on to that stage, using the final draft constitution?

TB: We have to resort to the Global Political Agreement. Remember Article 6 of the GPA, which is now Article 6 of the 8th Schedule of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, is the one that obliges the political parties to come up with a constitution following the process that we have followed — of first stakeholders’ public consultations, the drafting, the constitution itself and the referendum.

So what this means is that the guarantors to that agreement — who are clearly specified in Article 23 of the GPA, which is also Article 23 of the 8th Schedule of our Constitution, must intervene — and that is to say President Jacob Zuma and Sadc.

One of the resolutions of the Maputo Summit, where we have just come from, was that the facilitator will be watching closely whatever happens on the constitution and that he will be called to intervene and I would expect that whether we like it or not the facilitator and indeed Sadc will be versed with the situation.

But one will hope that the few decent people in Zanu PF, we hope that wisdom and common sense can prevail and we can go back to our original draft and we can move this country forward.

The people of Zimbabwe have suffered and if Zanu Pf insists on the current draft as it stands then I foresee months and months again of attrition, of debilitating negative energy, which will again throw this country backwards.

I think what the people of Zimbabwe want is to have the constitution, go to a referendum, have important reforms including media reform, security sector reform, put conditions that create an uncontested election — that is what the people of Zimbabwe want.

VG: But if you bring in Sadc or the mediator won’t you be forced again into these endless negotiations that you complain about?

VB: Well I can’t prejudge what the negotiator or Sadc will do, but certainly from our point of view as MDC we agreed on this process and we signed onto this process and when we signed onto this process the GPA doesn’t say that the parties must all support in a referendum the constitution that they signed to.

So we think that let’s go to a referendum and those who are unhappy with this constitution, those who feel that this constitution is not a true reflection of the people’s views — they must campaign against that.

With all the risks that you know might lead to violence but let the people express their views and those who are unhappy should do so in the ballot box of the referendum.

Another option, and we are not suggesting this or imposing this on anyone, another option is to say: “Fine, the parties came up with their own draft on July 18, you Zanu PF you want to exercise veto over the people of Zimbabwe let’s take your draft, let’s have two drafts and let the people of Zimbabwe either reject both drafts or vote for the draft they think is closer to what they aspire for”. And in short, Violet let the people of Zimbabwe decide.

VG: Just going through some of the comments on your Facebook on this issue, it seems that a lot of people are not surprised that this is happening. One follower says “you are sleeping with the enemy who will never change and no matter how flexible you become something else will be brought up again by Zanu PF.”

So what is your response to this?

TB: Three things. The first one is that miracles do happen and sometimes we do things not because we want to but reality demands that we do so. That is why Zanu PF, unwillingly, were brought to the negotiating table, signed a GPA, signed numerous agreements that brought us to the inclusive government that started work on February 15, 2009.

And you will agree with me that if you had asked the majority of people in Zimbabwe, the majority of international opinion in Sadc, overseas they would not have given this inclusive government more than six months but it has lasted so that is a miracle.

It is on the basis of that, knowing full well the kind of characterless or clueless individuals that we have dealt with, that we have persevered. We have persevered in a very painful inclusive government.

Some of us, like in my case we have had bombs sent to our houses, bullets sent to our letterboxes, we are vilified everyday — the Prime Minister and members of our party — but we have stuck on.

And the constitution that we came up with that we agreed on July 18, we did not negotiate it as the MDC we negotiated with Zanu PF and in fact we actually came up with a draft that can hold its own against any other constitution in the world.

When you draft a constitution you are bound by certain self-evident principles — for instance the principle of separation of power; the issue of ensuring that citizens are protected — so you have a strong Bill of Rights; the need to ensure that there is good governance; the issue of free, fair and regular elections.

So all these basic things you find them in this constitution and on the basis of this constitution principles the modern constitution you can basically download it from the internet — in other words it can write itself.

And I am saying those basic fundamental things you find them there. There are certain things you might be unhappy with — for instance the size of the legislature, the issues around running mates — why should we have two vice presidents in a small country like this one?

The issue around land provisions — there are certain things that are unique to Zimbabwe but as a constitutional document respecting well-known fundamental constitutional norms — the constitution that we agreed on July 18 passes that test.

VG: Either way whatever constitution Zimbabwe was going to get was going to be a compromise but comparing this… (interrupted)

TB: … there is no constitution in the world which is not a compromise … (interrupted)

VG: … yes but … (interrupted)

TB: … the constitution which is generally granted as the best constitution in the world is the South African one and I can tell you that it was negotiated at Kempton Park in 1992 so there is no constitution in the world that is not negotiated.

What is critical is that in the process of negotiations do you have authority from the people?

Authority in terms of the authority of the people that are representing and secondly the authority in terms of the views — the public legitimation exercise which Zimbabweans carried out through the public outreach programme.

*To be continued.

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