Civic society key in constitutional process

HARARE - It is sad that the country’s constitution-making process, which should have been the opportunity to lay the marker for a new Zimbabwe, continues on the controversial path.

Since the process, led by the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) started, hardly has a day gone without rowing.

The incessant haggling and bickering has taken the gloss off this process which some civic groups are
opposed to, rightly claim, is a political-driven process which excludes the prominent roles supposed to be played by the people.

We had thought the political mudslinging by the three parties in the Global Political Agreement (GPA) over the draft to be presented to the Second All-Stakeholders Conference slated for next month in the capital, was gamesmanship by those fighting from the incremental position in this high-stakes game.

But how does Copac explain the almost exclusion of key civic society groups from the Second All-Stakeholders Conference?

 Yesterday pro democracy groups remonstrated with Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora over the manner in which delegates to this important conference had been picked.

The manner in which delegates had been picked was exclusionary of civil society and deeply flawed.

The number of delegates has now been scaled down from the initial 2 000 to 1 100 delegates.

Of the 1 100, 246 delegates will come from political parties, 284 from Parliament and 571 delegates from civil society.

The Copac draft will be submitted at the Second All-Stakeholders Conference.

A list of constitutional principles used by Copac and the gap-filling document on international best practice will also be submitted to the conference.

The Seconnd All-Stakeholders Conference will not be a drafting conference but will focus on comments and recommendations on the draft from the stakeholders which will be incorporated into a report for Copac’s consideration.

Civil society, diplomats, the judiciary, local and international media and all other interested stakeholders will be allowed to observe the process.

But civic society plays a critical role and it must make sure the whole national process is placed under the microscopic eye to avoid the manipulation of the process for partisan interests.

This is why we are in support of the observation and monitoring role by the civic society groups who, like opposing groups such as the National Constitutional Assembly, view the constitution-making process with suspicion.

And there are no guarantees that a repeat of the July 2009 First All Stakeholders Conference where violence rocked the gathering, will be avoided.

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