Mugabe, Tsvangirai's constitution fraud

HARARE - Zimbabwe's parliamentary assembly is expected to rubber-stamp a draft constitution by Thursday in what is ranking as one of the biggest frauds by ruling politicians since Independence in 1980.

Coalition government Principals reached an agreement over a charter that paves the way for joint presidential and legislative elections this year.

A full strength of legislators from President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the three ruling MDC parties led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube and Arthur Mutambara were in Parliament yesterday for the largely symbolic tabling of the draft constitution that was supposed to require a two-thirds majority to sail through.

All parties’ chief whips have ordered all their MPs to attend today’s session without fail, which will debate the select committee’s report.

There will be no debate on the draft constitution, which has been tabled for MPs’ information only in an apparent deviation of the initially envisaged plan when the Global Political Agreement was mooted.

 The fast-track on the document within two days in Parliament has led to criticism that the job is being rushed to temper the outcry.

Paul Mangwana, co-chair of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac) spearheading the process told a late news conference on Friday that the draft will not be debated by legislators because they have no mandate to change the people’s views.

Yet a special Cabinet task-force, working at the behest of the Principals, made wide-ranging changes that significantly changed what the people said during four-month long nationwide public hearings held in 2010.

After Copac produced the so-called July 18, (2012) draft, the Zanu PF politburo convened marathon meetings, some running well after midnight, reinstating imperial presidential powers and making sweeping changes. Zanu PF made well over 200 alterations to the draft, and threatened to sink the Copac draft if the ruling MDCs rejected the changes.

Tsvangirai’s MDC and Ncube’s party were forced to rescind resolutions of their national executive and national council organs, ditching their protests against what they called the “Zanu PF draft”. Tsvangirai and Ncube were both forced into a dramatic climb down in a bid to break the logjam.

In the ongoing process in Parliament, legislators will only get involved if there is a YES vote in the forthcoming referendum scheduled for March, then, they will be asked to gazette the draft as a Bill which they will be asked to pass.

Today, only the select committee report will be discussed and debate is expected to end on Thursday with the adoption of the report.

All parties in Parliament have been whipped to back the report and meet the deadline set by the Principals, who have hitherto hijacked the process from the legislature and decreed Parliament to race to pass it.

The assembly, synonymous with raucous debates, walkouts and liberal voices opposed to Zanu PF domination during its 2009 heyday, has been neutered and is expected to work through the day on the select committee report.
 The ruling MDCs, which had previously denounced the proposed Zanu PF changes to the Constitution as an attempt by the veteran president and his ruling Zanu PF party to return Zimbabwe to the Lancaster House constitution, will help make the draft sail through Parliament without any questions in what analysts say is an apparent abdication of their duty as legislators.

Analyst Mathula Lusinga said the process was no longer people-driven but elitist.

“Zimbabweans spent more than three years collecting important information about how they wish to be governed and their wishes were expected to be put in a referendum without alterations,” he said.

“According to the MDCs’ earlier statements, there were not supposed to be any negotiations about altering the draft constitution. To my surprise, the very MDCs that many support have come out in support of an altered document, calling the move a major success in history.

 “I may agree that there were compromises made from all political parties involved but I find it rather disgusting that once again, we have allowed the country’s Principals to decide what is important or not on their own.”

 Debate on the new constitution had been expected to be a major showdown between Zanu PF and the MDCs.

 South African President Jacob Zuma’s facilitation team has been leading regional mediation efforts between the ruling parties in the countdown to the elections and Lindiwe Zulu and Charles Nqakula are understood to have met with senior negotiators from all three GPA parties in Harare last week to receive an update on the constitution-making process and planning for the referendum.

 Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa has denied that an agreement on the Constitution had been reached with outside influence, saying the Constitution “breakthrough” demonstrated a level of political maturity and new-found unity of purpose.

 Chinamasa was, however, quick to state that Zanu PF will not accede to media law reform or other reforms before the referendum and elections.

Tendai Biti, secretary general for Tsvangirai’s MDC, on the other hand, said further reforms and compliance with the roadmap to elections were critical before fresh polls, adding the forthcoming plebiscites must be held under the dictates of the Grand Baie protocol — Sadc principles and guidelines on elections adopted by all regional member states in the Mauritius capital in 2004.

Mugabe, the 88-year-old who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, is seeking an eighth term in office at a time when the country is recovering from a decade-long economic meltdown that critics blame on his mismanagement.

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