Grumbling chiefs offside, says Copac

HARARE - Chiefs who are seeking to derail the constitution- making process are out of line as the programme is now beyond individuals or groups, the Constitution Select Committee (Copac)) has said.

Traditional leaders are particularly miffed by the new draft constitution because it whittles down their powers.

They are also against the imposition of presidential term limits in the draft negotiated by President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Copac, the parliamentary body that has been steering the constitution making since 2009 before Mugabe and Tsvangirai hijacked the process, says it is meaningless for chiefs to involve Mugabe or any other Principal at a stage the country is preparing for a referendum.

Douglas Mwonzora, a Copac co-chairperson representing Tsvangirai’s MDC, said the chiefs are offside.

“The chiefs are late, we consulted them on the Constitution and they gave their input. They cannot preside over areas that are beyond their jurisdiction,” said Mwonzora.

Chiefs, who are accused by civic society organisations and then MDC of propping up Zanu PF through coercing their followers to vote for the former ruling party, feel the draft constitution usurps their royal powers on issues and assets such as land.

Clause 15.3 (2) of the draft states that: “Except as provided for in Act of Parliament, traditional leaders shall have no authority, control or jurisdiction over land except communal land or over persons outside communal land unless the cause of the action arose within the area of the traditional leader’s jurisdiction.”

Chiefs are now seeking audience with Mugabe who ironically endorsed the draft constitution along with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube.

Paul Mangwana, Copac co-chairperson representing Zanu PF, said chiefs have a democratic right to engage the president but should know that the clause was inserted to avoid confrontations over areas of jurisdiction.

“We have provided the best for our chiefs and they are reading the clause wrongly. This clause calls for an orderly jurisdiction over land.

“We give them the normal jurisdiction in communal lands but then we approach other areas case by case. We are trying to find peaceful resolution to possible disagreement,” said Mangwana.

Mugabe and his counterparts in the uneasy coalition government are campaigning for the adoption of the draft constitution in the referendum.

With Parliament, which is dominated by Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the MDC, set to rubber stamp the draft agreed to by Mugabe and Tsvangirai, Mwonzora says there is little room for the chiefs to manoeuvre.

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