Constitution-making process: The big lie

HARARE - The big news since the Second All-Stakeholders meeting  has been President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry minister Welshman Ncube’s role in the constitution-making process. Mugabe opened a can of worms when he stated that the Principals had ultimate authority over the crafting of the MUCH-AWAITED new governance charter.  

Tsvangirai and Ncube immediately distanced themselves from the statement, claiming that Copac, a Parliamentary select committee mandated by the Global Political Agreement(GPA) to craft the charter, will own the process.

In this week’s Follow Up, Daily News on Sunday’s Bridget Mananavire shows how, true to Mugabe’s word, the Principals have all along been in charge of the process, at times reducing Copac chairpersons to mere
note-takers.

It would be politically incorrect for Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Ncube to be seen dictating the writing of a constitution vaunted as people- driven.

But, throughout the process, Zimbabwe’s constitution-making process has been guided by the three, with Mugabe and Tsvangirai dominating.

Nothing could have illustrated how the Executive is effectively in charge of a process that is publicly acclaimed to be led by Parliament than events last week.

Even before Mugabe infamously let the cat out of the bag by stating that Principals had ultimate authority over Copac, the principals, through a “deadlock-breaking” team named the management committee, have been fiddling with the constitution-making process.

Analysts and Copac insiders say Tsvangirai and Ncube are just playing to the political gallery by denying what they have been doing all along through the management committee.

The management committee comprises of high powered Zanu PF and MDC ministers who also represent the three principals in inter-party power sharing negotiations.

Even after elected principal of his party, Ncube continued to attend meetings of the Management Committee and especially so in the final meetings that resulted in the signing of the July 18 Copac draft at Imba Matombo just outside Harare.

Its role is defined as supervisory, powers conferred by the three principals without provision in the GPA, which is touted as the coalition’s bible.

National Constitutional Assembly chairperson Lovemore Madhuku, a fierce critic of the Copac process, said the fact that the principals’ representatives in the management committee have been supervising the process, at times taking over the entire project, rendered Tsvangirai and Ncube’s statements a farce.

An example is when, after a Copac deadlock, the management committee took over and retreated to Nyanga where they negotiated the content for the draft.

At the meeting, held at Inn on the Rupurara in Nyanga, Copac chairpersons Paul Mangwana (Zanu PF), Douglas Mwonzora (MDC) and Edward Mkhosi were barred from contributing but ordered to take notes as the power sharing negotiators carried the mandate of Principals.

Madhuku said Mugabe’s statement was meant to perch him as a tough leader to his party’s factions while Tsvangirai and Ncube were desperate to appear democratic by disagreeing with him.

“Ncube and Tsvangirai think they can fool people, this is just a smoke screen. There is a difference between being principled and pretending to be principled. Mugabe is being fairly consistent here,” said Madhuku.

“Mugabe is being more honest politically than those two. The process has always been run by the Principals as they have always been interfering.

“Tsvangirai once admitted in a meeting with us that the Management Committee is made up of Principals’ appointees. The difference now is that Mugabe is saying they are to do what they have been sending others to do all along,” the law professor and constitutional reforms campaigner said.

According to Copac co-chairs, the management committee will have the final say on what happens to the second All-Stakeholders’ report after it has been completed tomorrow by the Copac subcommittee.

Political analyst and University of Zimbabwe lecturer Charity Manyeruke said the Executive should not shy from the process now.

“Executive means full responsibility and they are accountable to the process because of our trust. But if they deviate from what the people said then there will be a problem,” she said.

Manyeruke said the absence of the management committee provision in Article 6 of the GPA was a non-issue as the article only provides a framework for Copac operations.

“It is not a constitution and some of these things are very administrative. The GPA cannot spell out everything. It is a transitional framework,” she said.

Opening the fifth session of the seventh Parliament last Tuesday, Mugabe affirmed the position.

“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 necessary steps to set up an appropriate mechanism to build required consensus on the way forward, mindful that our major objectives remain the holding of harmonised elections in March 2013 under a new constitution,” Mugabe said.

Tsvangirai’s spokesperson Luke Tamborinyoka yesterday told the Daily News on Sunday the premier’s involvement in the constitution will not be as an Executive of government but as a party leader.

“If the management committee approaches him, it will not be in his capacity as the Prime Minister but as the president of MDC,” said Tamborinyoka.

“What we are disputing is Mugabe’s statement that Copac’s job is finished before they have presented the draft and report to Parliament, that the executive has taken over,” said Tamborinyoka.

What Article 6 says

Acknowledging that it is the fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves;

Aware that the process of making this constitution must be owned and driven by the people and must be inclusive and democratic;

Recognising that the current Constitution of Zimbabwe made at the Lancaster House Conference, London (1979) was primarily to transfer power from the colonial authority to the people of Zimbabwe;

6.1 The Parties hereby agree:

(a) that they shall set up a Select Committee of Parliament (Copac) composed of representatives of the parties whose terms of reference shall be as follows:

(i) to set up such subcommittees chaired by a member of Parliament and composed of members of Parliament and representatives of civil society as may be necessary to assist the Select Committee in performing its mandate herein;

(ii) to hold such public hearings and such consultations as it may deem necessary in the process of public consultation over the making of a new constitution for Zimbabwe;

(iii) to convene an All-Stakeholders Conference to consult stakeholders on their representation in the sub-committees referred to above and such related matters as may assist the committee in its work;
(iv) to table its draft constitution to a Second All-Stakeholders Conference; and

(v) to report to Parliament on its recommendations over the content of a new constitution for Zimbabwe

(b) that the draft constitution recommended by the Select Committee shall be submitted to a referendum;

(c) that, in implementing the above, the following time frames shall apply:

(i) the Select Committee shall be set up within two months of inception of a new government;

(ii) the convening of the first All Stakeholders conference shall be within 3 months of the date of the appointment of the Select Committee;

(iii) the public consultation process shall be completed no later than four months of the date of the first All-Stakeholders Conference;

(iv) the draft constitution shall be tabled within 3 months of completion of the public consultation process to a second All Stakeholders Conference;

(v) the draft constitution and the accompanying Report shall be tabled before Parliament within 1 month of the second All Stakeholders Conference;

(vi) the draft constitution and the accompanying report shall be debated in Parliament and the debate concluded within one month;

(vii) the draft constitution emerging from Parliament shall be gazetted before the holding of a referendum;

(viii) a referendum on the new draft constitution shall be held within three months of the conclusion of the debate;

(ix) in the event of the draft constitution being approved in the referendum it shall be gazetted within one month of the date of the referendum; and

(x) the draft constitution shall be introduced in Parliament no later than one month after the expiration of the period of 30 days from the date of its gazetting.

Constitution-making process: The big lie

THE big news since the Second All-Stakeholders meeting  has been President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry minister Welshman Ncube’s role in the constitution-making process.

Mugabe opened a can of worms when he stated that the Principals had ultimate authority over the crafting of the MUCH-AWAITED new governance charter.  

Tsvangirai and Ncube immediately distanced themselves from the statement, claiming that Copac, a Parliamentary select committee mandated by the Global Political Agreement(GPA) to craft the charter, will own the process.

In this week’s Follow Up, Daily News on Sunday’s Bridget Mananavire shows how, true to Mugabe’s word, the Principals have all along been in charge of the process, at times reducing Copac chairpersons to mere note-takers.

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