Cabinet hijacks Parly-led Constitution

HARARE - Zimbabwe's long-awaited new constitution must now be amended by proxies from leaders of the three ruling parties, but signs are this will be anything but a smooth transition.

The next step for the charter after the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) presented the July 18 draft to the Second All-Stakeholders conference will be its renegotiation by ministers appointed by President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, followed by a lengthy process of trade-offs that could take months.

The take-over of the supposedly Parliament-led process by members of the executive, Tendai Biti, Patrick Chinamasa and Priscilla Mishairabwi-Mushonga has stoked tensions and become the new focus of president Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team, currently in Zimbabwe to ascertain progress ahead of crucial elections.

The Copac draft, which Zimbabweans have waited for over three years, aims to check presidential powers and curb corruption, political patronage, land-grabbing and tribalism which have plagued one of southern Africa’s biggest economies since independence in 1980.

Foreign investors and governments hailed last month’s Second All-Stakeholders conference but Zimbabwe risks losing international goodwill, and funding, if Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara rewrite the draft to suit their agendas, botching the law’s implementation.

Phillan Zamchiya, regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said: “Our position is unequivocal: we do not support the setting up of another executive wing to reconcile the differences from the Second All- Stakeholders’ conference.

“In essence this Cabinet committee will have a drafting mandate.

“First, there is already the management committee that was working closely with Copac and to create a new creature is simply unreasonable. The differences are not entirely new and the management committee and Copac have been working to reconcile these differences from day one.”

The majority of voters are backing the Copac draft.

After years of marred elections, the Copac charter was seen as an important step in avoiding a repeat of that election bloodshed, and the peaceful stakeholders’ conference encouraged investor sentiment, but the attempts to rewrite the draft have stirred controversy, with analysts citing the apparent breach of the doctrine of separation of powers.

“We respect the doctrine of the separation of powers, the trias politica principle, among the branches of government that is the judiciary, executive and legislature,” Zamchiya said.

“The executive should therefore not write how they should govern us.

“Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is clear on how the constitution- making process should proceed that is from the Second All- Stakeholders’ conference to Parliament and from there to a referendum.”

Zamchiya said Zimbabwe was running out of time to afford the luxury of setting up committee after committee as the next election looms.

“Rather the watchword should be implementation of what is already agreed,” he said.

The first major battleground will be the reinstating of imperial presidential powers. The stakes are high because there is pressure from voters for swift implementation of the law which trims presidential powers and introduces regional grassroots governments with a degree of autonomy and a share of the national budget.

Political horse-trading by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara could cause delays to the new law, but the pro-democracy principals could end up paying dearly for this in the 2013 elections.

“It is our conviction that some hard-liner political players are buying time to push Zimbabwe to hold a general election without a new constitution and substantive reforms so that Zimbabwe can have a flawed transition,” Zamchiya said.

“A flawed transition will put to waste all Sadc’s long-term efforts to ensure a successful and democratic transition in Zimbabwe.

“Such a failure will mirror democratic regression in the region, a situation of one step forward and two steps back with devastating consequences for the ordinary suffering people of Zimbabwe.”

Zimbabwe’s coalition has so far failed to deliver the sought-after political reforms, including a promise to usher in a new constitution in 18 months.

Almost four years on, the parties are still haggling over the draft.

Zamchiya called on all “progressive forces in Zimbabwe and across the region to unite and push for a referendum so that Zimbabweans can finally decide their own destiny toward a successful and democratic transition and an end to their misery.” - Gift Phiri, Politics Editor

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