Cabinet team changes Copac draft

HARARE - A seven-member Cabinet taskforce  produced a new draft constitution for Zimbabwe on Wednesday, seeking to beat a Christmas deadline set by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is also eager to get the draft out of the way by Christmas.

The move advanced progress on the writing of a new governance charter, which now has a Zanu PF slant that rights experts say could give war veterans expanded constitutional rights, explicitly bar homosexuality and bring new restrictions on access to information.

The new “December 12 draft”, a copy of which is in possession of the Daily News, will be transmitted to Parliament but has to be approved by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Industry minister Welshman Ncube, the three political party leaders who have hijacked the process from Parliament committee, Copac.

A referendum is expected early next year.

The hung assembly that has been leading the constitution writing for months before it was hijacked by the principals through the Cabinet taskforce is expected to rubber stamp the document coming from the principals.

There are hardly any fundamental changes to the July 18, 2012 draft, with the two drafts essentially being the same, save for small changes in the founding provisions and other clauses.

The founding values and principles in the December 12 draft now give “recognition and respect of the war of liberation”; and the State, its institutions and agencies of government at every level must accord due respect, honour and recognition to war veterans.

The new draft now recognises Zimbabwe as a “multi-party, democratic political system.”

The draft also explicitly recognises the rights of women, the elderly, youth, children and war veterans.

While the July 18 draft made Chewa, Chibarwe, English, Kalanga, Koisan, Nambya, Ndau, Ndebele, Shangani, Shona, sign language, Sotho, Tonga, Tswana, Venda and Xhosa, the “official languages” of Zimbabwe, the December 12 draft says they are the “officially recognised” and “the State, its institutions and agencies” of government at every level must ensure that all languages are treated equitably.

The July 18 draft states that the State must take all practical measures to promote free and compulsory basic education for children, the December 12 draft extends these rights to higher and tertiary education.

The December 12 draft recognises preservation of traditional knowledge.

However, the December 12 draft seeks to hobble access to information.

It also explicitly bars gay marriages.

“Every person who has attained the age of 18 has the right to marry provided that same sex marriages are prohibited,” the new draft reads.

The new draft compels the defence forces to “respect fundamental rights and freedoms of every person”.

It compels the commissioner-general of police to exercise his or her command “under the directive of the President”.

Under functions of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the December 12 draft adds “to register voters”, “supervise voter registration” and to “compile voters’ rolls and registers” meaning Tobaiwa Mudede will no longer be the registrar of voters if the December 12 draft sails through in its present form.

The Zimbabwe Media Commission is compelled in the new draft “to formulate or encourage the formulation of codes of conduct for persons employed in the media”.

It asserts the independence of the Anti-Corruption Commission.

“In the exercise of its functions the Anti-Corruption Commission shall not be under the direction or control of anyone or body,” the December 12 draft reads.

From assessing the December 12 draft, the amendments that Zanu PF would have wanted to be in the draft were not incorporated, and if it sails through the Cabinet taskforce, it will be a major victory for the two MDC formations.

Paul Mangwana, Zanu PF Copac co-chairperson said they have not assented to the December 12 draft, which he described as a “working document”.

“There is no deal,” Mangwana told the Daily News yesterday.

 “The principals have said the issues that have been agreed on, factor them in. There is no deal right now, there is nothing. We are still discussing.”

Eric Matinenga, the convenor and chairperson of the Cabinet taskforce, professed ignorance on the December 12 draft.

“The negotiations are on-going,” Matinenga said. “It is still work in progress.” - Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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