Copac climbs down

HARARE - Leaders of more than 10 pro-democracy civil society groups yesterday met a leader of Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) to iron out controversy surrounding the number of civil society delegates to the forthcoming Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference on a new constitution.

The conference is scheduled for October 4 to 6 in Harare.

Civil society officials from Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimcodd, Women’s Coalition, Zimbabwe Peace Project, Students Solidarity Trust, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, Combined Harare Residents
Association among others met with Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora after they threatened to pull out of the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference saying the manner in which delegates had been picked was exclusionary of civil society and deeply flawed.

Phillan Zamchiya regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition — pooling over 350 civil society organisations — said Mwonzora acknowledged the mistake and advised that Copac had resolved to ramp
up the number of civil society delegates that will attend the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference.

“In the meeting, Hon Mwonzora told civil society leaders that after extensive deliberations Copac reviewed its position and resolved that the number of delegates was scaled down from the initial 2 000 to 1 100 delegates,” he said.

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

The Copac draft, an interim national statistical report and five different documents with views from the national outreach, Diaspora, institutions, children and people living with disabilities 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.

Mwonzora told civil society leaders the 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, Mwonzora said.

“As civil society, we would like to commend Copac for urgently addressing our concerns,” Zamchiya said.

“However, we will continue to lobby to ensure that the views of civil society effectively inform the
constitution-making process. We will ensure that even beyond the conference the whole national process is placed under the microscopic eye to avoid the manipulation of the process for partisan interests.”

Zanu PF is demanding wide-ranging changes to the Copac draft, which has been endorsed by the two ruling MDC parties.

Zimbabwe is currently governed under the 1979 Constitution agreed at the Lancaster House talks in London.
The Constitution has been amended 19 times since the country’s independence in 1980.

An attempt to introduce a new constitution between 1999 and 2000 failed after the National Constitutional Assembly and other civil society organisations, backed by a nascent MDC, successfully campaigned against a government-sponsored draft. - Gift Phiri

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