Beware the Ides of March!

HARARE - Douglas Mwonzora, the co-chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee (Copac), has taken brickbats from former comrades in their struggle for a “New Zimbabwe”.

It is not difficult to find why Mwonzora and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and the MDC family have been brandished a modern Judas Iscariot by agreeing to have a new constitution without involving once key allies such as the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA).

 Zimbabwe holds a constitutional referendum on March 16 in a drive that could usher in a new charter largely expected to define the conduct of watershed elections expected later in the year.

Zanu PF and the two MDC formations are drumming up support for a Yes vote while distressed NCA wants a rejection because it maintains the process is not people-driven.

Mwonzora, while expressing optimism that the MDC’s aspirations for a new constitution were likely to sail through, warned it was not a guarantee that elections would be free and fair.

“We are likely to get a free and fair election if we follow the constitution but I must warn Zimbabweans that a good constitution does not necessarily guarantee a good constitutional order. Good constitutionalism is a matter of attitude."

“We still have to rely on the law enforcement agents to enforce the law including the constitution. It is clear that Zanu PF will try everything in the book to cheat the constitution. They will try everything in the book to go against the reforms that are brought in this constitution because as a party they unfairly benefit from the unfairness that they have created."

“But what they are trying to do now clearly is a sign that they are listening to the constitution. Instead of having these militia operate outside the conventional organisation, they are now recruiting these into the prison service, police force, army to serve as if they are regular members of those security apparatus, which security apparatus are in law allowed by the constitution.

“In a way, it’s a display of sensitivity to the provisions of the constitution that there shall be no militia. At the same time it is a manifestation of what we suspect they are going to try to do as much as they can to try to cheat the constitution,” Mwonzora told the Daily News.

The MDC spokesperson said a new constitution was the strongest indicator of how the country has travelled in its bid to end political haggling and economic slowdown.

The new constitution among other things has clauses which set conditions for peace and proscribes violence.

It also says that there shall be only second recognised military or semi military outfit; stipulating the Zimbabwe national army, the intelligence, the police and the prison service.

Any other military or semi military organisation, or security organisation has to be established in terms of law, outlawing militia.

“The moment we don’t have militia then electoral terrorism is ameliorated in a way. This constitution says there is behaviour expected of security apparatus, even the regular one.

No member of the security force shall de-campaign a political party nor shall campaign for a political party and that all soldiers, CIO operatives as well as police must observe fundamental human rights,” said Mwonzora.

But any hopes of the MDC putting daylight between themselves and Zanu PF largely depend on the stability within the party which is alleged to be riddled with factions and plots to topple Tsvangirai.

A group of senior officials within the party are alleged to be plotting to unseat Tsvangirai in 2016 if he fails to win the forthcoming Presidential elections.

But Mwonzora blamed and accused the intelligence operatives for trying to destabilise the party using different methods, including smear campaigns against its leadership.

Mwonzora appeared to suggest Tsvangirai has left the door open for rival Welshman Ncube to form a pact that could potentially see President Robert Mugabe facing a united MDC at the polls.

Of course, Ncube has punched holes in that story which he has dismissed with telling consistency.

“The position of the president of the MDC has always been that he is prepared to work with any progressive forces for the removal of the dictatorship.

“It is maybe the other people who have always ruled out what may happen or what may not happen but prime minister Tsvangirai has always said that his party and himself are prepared to work with all progressive forces for the purposes of getting rid of this dictatorship,” said Mwonzora.

“Having said that, the members of the MDC must have a say into the formatting of any pact. In other words it’s not a leadership thing alone, it’s a membership issue.

“The members must decide.  In our view, it is not necessary to have little political fiefdoms”.

The Nyanga North legislator said his party, unfazed by stories of leadership conflict, was preparing to have a candidate selection process reflective of a serious organisation ready to govern. The MDC, said Mwonzora, will use a confirmation process and hold primaries in constituencies where former sitting MPs have died.

 “The confirmation process is designed to get rid of non-performers. Non-performers will not be confirmed by their constituencies because confirmation is based on the performance within the constituency.

“And this performance is measured against the promises of the individual MP,” explained Mwonzora.

Mwonzora did concede that corruption reported amongst the party ranks had damaged them but quickly urged people to see the brighter side of the MDC — the sacking of 12 councillors charged and found by a disciplinary committee.

“The corrupt elements soiled the name of the party and they affected the perception of the party especially the perception of the party by a common man.  Our decision to expel these councillors shows that we have a zero tolerance on corruption”.

He defended some of the lifestyles of the ministers from the MDC  whose lives before joining the inclusive government were consistent with the party’s principles and electoral messages.

Under Finance minister Tendai Biti, the inclusive government members drive swankie cars which had never been accorded to any government by the then Zanu PF government.

“I don’t think this is out of the world. We are not advocating for any changes in the salaries of the ministers.

“We are saying these ministers must be given what is statutorily allowed to be given so that they discharge their duties.

“Zimbabweans must remember that ministers are not allowed to do any other jobs and therefore have to be adequately compensated,” said Mwonzora.

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