Mugabe backs down

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe yesterday bowed to his coalition partners’ pressure and agreed to a series of reforms including on the constitution-making process.

Mugabe reportedly acceded to four key issues that had escalated tensions in the troubled coalition government.

Mugabe’s climbdown came in a Principals meeting held yesterday in Harare.

It came hot on the heels of a rebellion by coalition partners Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, his deputy Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube, who were expressing exasperation at the slow pace of reforms.

The Daily News heard that Mugabe also finally agreed to set a date for the official ceremonial opening of the next session of the present Parliament — its fifth and final session.

Mugabe had left Parliament in limbo after failing to proclaim the end of the fourth session. The fourth session was supposed to end on 24 July after which Mugabe would have opened a new session.

The Daily News heard that Mugabe agreed in the Principals’ meeting to deliver his speech soon to parliamentarians opening the new fifth session.

After the official opening, Members of the House of Assembly and senators will likely forego the customary adjournment and delve straight into the President’s outline of the government’s plans for the new session.

Mugabe’s failure to prorogue the legislature had forced Parliament to sit on an ad- hoc basis.

Several Bills on the order paper had been stymied, including the National Incomes and Pricing Commission Amendment Bill, two Private Member’s Bills– the Urban Councils Amendment Bill and the Criminal Procedure and Evidence Amendment Bill meant to repeal the now infamous section 121(3) of the principal Act.

The Securities Amendment Bill and the Microfinance Bill are also scheduled to be tabled during the forthcoming session.

During the current session, only five Bills were passed: the Electoral Amendment Bill, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Bill, the Older Persons Bill, Finance Bill (2012) and Appropriation Bill (2012).

But Mugabe is yet to sign into law the crucial Electoral Amendment Bill and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Bill passed on August 19.

Nine weeks on, both bills have still not been gazetted by the President as Acts of Parliament.

There are mounting fears that without institutional reforms, Zimbabwe’s forthcoming election, due by June next year, might be no different from the violent 2008 polls that claimed over 200 lives.

The principals’ meeting also agreed that preparations for the second all-stakeholders’ conference scheduled before the end of October be expedited.

Luke Tamborinyoka, the PM’s spokesperson told the Daily News: “The principals agreed that the minister of Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs minister (Eric) Matinenga will be the government point person who will be working with Copac (Constitutional Parliamentary Committee) to see to it that the second-all stakeholders’ conference is expeditiously convened.”

Tamborinyoka said Mugabe had also agreed to swear-in Morgen Komichi, Tsvangirai’s pick for deputy minister of Transport and Infrastructure Development.

Mugabe had delayed the swearing-in of Komichi to fill the vacancy created following the death of Tichaona Mudzingwa in April this year. Only Mugabe, as the head of state, has powers to swear-in government ministers.

“We expect him to be sworn-in soon,” Tamborinyoka said.

The principals also agreed to meet with leaders of constitutional commissions created by the inclusive government; especially the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) headed by Simpson Mutambanengwe, a former Zimbabwean Supreme Court judge who was serving as acting Chief Justice in the Namibian Supreme Court.

“Principals hope to have meetings with the commissions, especially Zec, basically to discuss preparedness for elections and what they need and require so that the principals will be able to determine when the next elections could be held,” Tamborinyoka said.

The principals were also keen to talk to leaders of a state-appointed media commission that has disciplinary powers to withdraw journalists' licenses and confiscate equipment.

The commission, mandated with driving media reforms, has licensed several private newspapers, including the Daily News which was shut-down in 2003 and returned to news stalls in 2011.

“The principals want to look at how far they have gone in assisting the process of media reform which is a key reform that needs to be implemented ahead of elections as well as looking at how far they have gone in dealing with the issue of hate speech,” Tamborinyoka said. - Gift Phiri

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