'Draft constitution: Hold onto champagne bottles'

HARARE - Negotiators to Zimbabwe’s recently agreed draft constitution are fearing that Zanu PF might pull another Houdini act and derail the democratic reform process.

Regional Integration minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga said they were now on tender hooks awaiting the politburo decision.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Industry minister Welshman Ncube and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara brought the four-year-long heckling on Zimbabwe’s new charter to a seemingly positive end on Thursday last week after endorsing the draft constitution.

In an interview with the Daily News at the weekend, Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Ncube’s party lead negotiator warned Zimbabweans saying they needed to “hold onto their champagne bottles.”

“For some of us, who have been through the torturous journey of back-and-forth negotiating, we are on tender hooks and would like it if people would just keep quiet for a moment.

“Remember we celebrated after the July 18 signing but what happened afterwards took everyone 100 steps backwards. Zanu PF still has to go back to its politburo and anything can happen,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga said.

She was referring to Mugabe’s astonishing party stunt in which the former guerrilla movement somersaulted denying it had signed the agreed draft.

What followed was another half a year of negotiations but not before Zanu PF’s supreme decision-making body outside congress spent 60 hours “editing the draft”.

The party went on to produce its own version of the draft and tried to force it down the throats of Zimbabweans. The two MDC formations in the shaky coalition government stood their ground until last week’s landmark capitulation by Mugabe.

Misihairabwi-Mushonga refused to comment on whether on the last day of talks, Zanu PF negotiators had once again almost capitulated to the party’s internal factional fights that are threatening to boil over.

“In as much as I would like to tell you the juicy things that happened, the time is not now. Let us wait until we have delivered the constitution. When everything is signed and sealed. Munotibhururusira shiri (you will destroy everything), with the stories you write,” said the Regional Integration minister.

“It will not serve any purpose now. We have things we might want Zimbabweans to know, some very interesting things but please not now,” she said.

Insiders told the Daily News that Mugabe’s party negotiators had tried to pull another back flip stunt after agreeing to devolution demanding re-negotiation late on Wednesday.

“After agreement was reached Chinamasa early in the day, (Patrick, Justice minister and Zanu PF lead negotiator) came back and demanded to re-negotiate on devolution. He had received a call from one of the party’s faction leaders.

“The other parties refused and walked out. Overnight Chinamasa realised there was no going back. He then called for an early morning meeting of negotiators at which he confirmed Zanu PF’s agreement with its earlier decision on devolution so the report on negotiations was subsequently presented to the Principals,” an insider told the Daily News.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, programmes manager, Nixon Nyikadzino said there had not been much change to the July 18 draft accusing Zanu PF of deliberately dragging the process.

“Zanu PF just wanted to drag the process. The party is not ready for elections and as always, they seem to have got their wish,” Nyikadzino said.

Election lobby group, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) in a statement last week expressed concern over the idea of political parties having the final say once again.

“It will result in more negotiations. Principals represent their parties and so taking the draft to political parties again could be duplication of effort,” the statement said.



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