Principals want peace at Copac conference

HARARE - Zimbabwe’s coalition government leaders met yesterday and agreed to take painstaking steps to ensure a violence-free Second All-Stakeholders Conference that will be convened soon to scrutinise a draft constitution that slashes the powers of the presidency.

President Robert Mugabe and his ruling coalition partners, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube agreed that they will consult Constitutional Parliament Select Committee (Copac) when best to convene the Second All-Stakeholders Conference.

In the run-up to the Second All-Stakeholders conference, many Zimbabweans said they feared that violence could again haunt the conference as witnessed at the First All-Stakeholders Conference held at the Harare International Conference Centre in July 2009 when rival Zanu PF and MDC delegates clashed, prompting anti-riot police to intervene.

Luke Tamborinyoka, PM Tsvangirai’s spokesperson, told the Daily News: “Principals agreed that there must be a stakeholders’ conference with a difference. It must be peaceful not the chaos we saw at the First All-Stakeholders Conference."

“There is consensus among Principals that this is a people’s process and as such there is no need for violence and disruption associated with it. We are slowly moving towards a process where the people themselves through a referendum are going to take a position and as such the Principals don't expect any disturbances from any quarter.”

All the three leaders will address the second stakeholders’ conference “to re-emphasise the importance of peace and to make clear the significance of this process that this is a national process not individual parties and that no party is more superior than the people,” Tamborinyoka said.

The Daily News heard Mugabe had suggested that the Second All-Stakeholders Conference be convened by a retired judge ostensibly because there is a huge underlying unhappiness that is going to have national implications if Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo, who is also chairperson for Tsvangirai’s MDC, convenes the conference.

Tamborinyoka confirmed the “minor hurdle” which he said was resolved amicably.

“Parliament will lead the process since Article 6 is very clear that the constitution-making process is a Parliament-driven process,” he told the Daily News.

Zimbabweans hope a new constitution to replace the one inked in 1979 at the Lancaster House talks in London would whittle the President's powers, strengthen the role of Parliament and guarantee civil liberties and political freedoms.

Mugabe’s Zanu PF is overwhelmingly opposing the Copac draft constitution, vowing to press Copac to alter over 200 clauses that they say threaten the gains of the liberation struggle. - Gift Phiri

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