Constitution deadlock: Mwonzora speaks out

HARARE - Daily News' reporter Fungi Kwaramba (FK)sat down with MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora (DM), who is also the party’s chief representative to the troubled cross-party Constitution Select Committee (Copac).

He talks about the stalled draft constitution, factionalism and addresses perceptions that party president Morgan Tsvangirai has an eye for Zanu PF women.

FK: Let us start with the constitution-making process. You have already launched the “Vote Yes” campaign when your partners are still negotiating. Are you not jumping the gun here?

DM: The MDC’s position is that the constitution programme had two processes. The first was the outreach programme, the second was the negotiation process.

We have studied the document and we are happy with it. There are certain things in that document we may not be happy with but if the people want that then the MDC is contented.

FK: But Zanu PF is still ready to negotiate. Why are you shutting the door to talks?

DM: Zanu PF systematically has launched a “Vote No” campaign.

It has done that by shutting all voices on state radio and television. And it has also done so by denigrating the document on TV and putting its sponsored cadres to rubbish the document.

So Zanu PF has already started campaigning for a “No” vote.

FK: What are the sections of the draft constitution that you are unhappy with?

DM: There are a number of areas that we gave in, for example, we wanted a president who has run a country for more than 10 years to be disqualified from contesting future elections.

We gave in because that would have effectively affected President Robert Mugabe.
 
We did not want to be seen as if we were personalising the draft.

We also gave in to the age limit of a president. We had proposed 70.

We did not want two vice presidents but we compromised.

We wanted a Parliament of 150 people but we saw that our friends in Zanu PF wanted more and our friends in the smaller MDC, ironically also wanted more.

We gave a condition that any increase in Parliament should address gender inequality in a way that would put us closer to what people said during outreach programme.

People wanted 50-50 representation so we are not happy but that is part of negotiations.

FK: Okay, so why did we get a U-turn from Zanu PF if you agreed with the party’s representatives, including Cabinet ministers who have negotiated on behalf of that party all along?

DM: For the record, Zanu PF people signed the draft on July 18.

We signed the following day. Zanu PF was in a hurry. They were happy.

They were content. Honourable (Justice minister Patrick) Chinamasa was leading the negotiations and at times I felt he was dominating the proceedings.

There were a few times I personally clashed with him because I felt he was dominating.

These people when they were negotiating were well meaning but they have been victims of intimidation from their own party.

They are also victims of deep-seated factionalism so they are forced to defend what they do not believe themselves. They are slaves.

The Zanu PF machinery took the voice away from them and gave it to Vimbai Chivaura, Tafataona Mahoso and other clowns at ZBC to rubbish the document.

I am sure that if minister Chinamasa had been put on television, he would not have said some things that were said by the likes of Chivaura.

The pressure exerted on them is so much that they have resorted to saying ridiculous things for example Honourable (Copac co-chairperson Paul) Mangwana speaks as if he was at gunpoint during the process.
He speaks like a victim when he was a co-chairperson.

FK: The Zanu PF politburo says the draft deviates from the people’s views?

DM: We did not cheat anyone. Where there were gaps in the information we filled the gaps using international best practices.

Mangwana has also joined the issue of a national report on the outreach programme when he knows that such a report will only be produced at the end of a process.

He has joined such calls so that he cleanses himself. He is a victim of intimidation.

FK: Why are you reluctant to release the report so that people can judge for themselves?

DM: It does not make sense as it will not be a national report.

A national report compiles what happened in a process. It is akin to a school report.

In this regard, we still have the Second All-Stakeholders which is outstanding and only after we have completed that shall we release the report.

FK: Now that there is a deadlock what is the way forward?

DM: Zanu PF wants to delay the constitution and also the elections.

Let us just follow the GPA (Global Political Agreement).

There are no provisions that the Prime Minister and the President should negotiate the constitution.

FK: So are you going to pull out from government if Zanu PF insists on its demands?

DM: We entered into the unity government on behalf of the people and we are not going to pull out.
 
Zanu PF can pull out but we will not be pushed out by anyone.

FK: Coming to your party. It seems the chips are down.

You continue claiming to be the most popular but surveys by groups you respect indicate otherwise.

DM: We have seen the Freedom House report and the Afrobarometer report.

The two are not the same. The Freedom House report makes one chilling finding that intimidation has increased.
The last time that survey was conducted, only 25 percent refused to disclose their political affiliation and the latest report shows that 50 percent could not disclose their political affiliation.

The report that factors in the “margin of terror” is the Afrobarometer that is more close to reality as it puts us neck to neck with Zanu PF.

Secondly, as far as there is due regard to the margin of terror we accept the report and we also accept the criticism.

When we got into the unity government there were a lot of expectations.

There is a crisis of expectation and this is borne from the perception that the MDC alone can implement its policies as if it was governing solo.

FK: But the gap between your ordinary supporters and ministers and council officials living the high life on the poor taxpayers’ expense has increased.

DM: This is more of a perception than reality.

There is no gap and there is no difference between what the leaders were in 2008 and now.

If you look at our ministers for example (Finance minister Tendai) Biti, (Energy minister Elton) Mangoma, these people are not seeing nice cars for the first time.

If we compare with the region, the condition of ministers just like that of civil servants is the worst.

FK: But you seem to have joined the corruption train with some top officials having been arrested on such allegations.

DM: One must never respect arrests made by (police commissioner general Augustine) Chihuri-led police.
 
One must never respect the legal system driven by people like (Attorney-General Johannes) Tomana.

I have been accused of fraud myself but those charges have been dropped.

FK: Can we say that there is no corruption at the top, you are targeting the small fish, councillors for example?

DM: Corruption is not tolerated in the MDC.

If anybody has evidence against senior MDC officials they must come forward and we will do our own investigation.

FK: Investigating on your own? You did that on internal party violence but you seem to be sitting on the report and not releasing the names of implicated party officials.

DM: The conclusion was that all the people implicated must appear before the party’s disciplinary committee, which has prepared charges against the named people.

The disciplinary process is ongoing. Once the process is complete, we will make an announcement.

Those involved in violence are not going to walk scot free.

FK: So when can the nation expect the announcement?

DM: No we did not set a time frame. It is a legal process and we believe in due process.
 
We believe in giving people the opportunity to defend themselves.

FK: What about factionalism that showed at your congress and is still rife?

DM: The party has adjusted to the competition.

The organising department has done very well. It has integrated people into the party.

Our report on violence confirms that Zanu PF was a stakeholder in the violence.
 

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