'Principals have final say'

HARARE - President Robert Mugabe is sticking to his guns demanding that the draft constitution be brought before the three coalition government Principals before being tabled in Parliament.

The planned new charter is expected to lay the foundation for free and fair elections after the disputed 2008 polls.

Officially opening the Fifth Session of Seventh Parliament yesterday, Mugabe told the legislators that Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and himself were the custodians of the constitution -making process.

He said Principals had mandated the MPs to undertake the outreach programme for a new constitution and were now waiting a report leading to a referendum and elections in March next year.

Mugabe’s statement is contrary to the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) chairpersons Douglas Mwonzora, Paul Mangwana and Edward Mkhosi’s assertions that the process is driven by Parliament without the involvement of the executive.

Mugabe said the power sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) Principals, Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and himself had to take control of the programme and see to it through for a referendum to be held.

“Our expectations as Principals are that the next stage will proceed with haste so that the process is concluded expeditiously,” he said.

“Copac should work frantically to produce a report of the (Second All-Stakeholders) conference summarising the views expressed by the stakeholders, in particular divergent views and submit a report to the Principals who will take the necessary steps to set up an appropriate mechanism to build the required consensus on the way forward, mindful that our major objectives remain the holding of the harmonised elections in March 2013 under a new constitution,” said Mugabe.

As a way of trying to control and manage the Copac process, the Principals appointed a political management committee which is outside the GPA.

The committee comprises of senior members of Zanu PF and the MDC factions.

Article 6 of the GPA provides the framework for the constitution-making process and does not have the provision for Principals or the management committee.

The draft constitution process begun in April 2009, and it has taken three years to complete.

According to the GPA, the process was supposed to end in 18 months.

Mugabe yesterday acknowledged the difficulties involved in the drafting of the new charter with the three parties fighting each other on the views to be inserted in the draft.

“It has been more than three-and-half-years to get where we are now. Be that as it may, the fact that it has taken this long indicates that the process was indeed a difficult one. There is need for government and Principals to assume the management of the process leading to holding of a referendum,” said Mugabe.

“Should the people express their affirmation of the draft constitution, Parliament would be asked to pass it as the fundamental law of our country. Elections will then become a necessary sequel,” said Mugabe.

Two weeks ago, the draft constitution passed through the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference and should be tabled in Parliament if the GPA provisions are followed.

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