Africa

Zimbabwe's constitution process a battleground

Ray Ndlovu

Zimbabwe's constitution-drafting process has been hijacked by the country's political parties. The draft will be debated by more than 1 000 delegates.

Zanu-PF is demanding 266 amendments to Zimbabwe’s draft constitution. (Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi, AP)

The contest to control Zimbabwe's drafting of a new constitution will heat up next week when the draft produced by the constitutional parliamentary committee (Copac) is taken to a second stakeholders conference.

The draft will be debated by more than 1000 delegates, including businesspeople and representatives from churches, non-governmental organisations and political parties in Harare from October 4 to 6.

The two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) parties have so far resisted efforts by President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party to include nearly 266 amendments to the draft.

Zanu-PF has objected to a number of proposals in the draft, including the clipping of the president's executive powers, security sector reforms, dual citizenship and the devolution of power from central government.

Zanu-PF is opposed to the formation of a national prosecuting authority to replace the office of the attorney general. The former ruling party is also keen to retain the death penalty, which the MDC parties are keen to have repealed. After the second stakeholders' conference, the draft will be taken to Parliament, where, after approval by legislators, it will then be put to a referendum.

Nothing untoward
There are signs, however, that Zanu-PF will not allow the draft to go unchallenged. The party plans to discredit the draft and show how Copac "ignored the people's views" by demanding that the national report – which details information gathered during the constitutional outreach exercise – be supplied to delegates alongside the draft.

Rugare Gumbo, the Zanu-PF spokesperson, said this was merely part of its election mobilisation campaign and there was nothing untoward about it. "We want our members to speak ... with one voice … We have said as a party that we will go to the second all-stakeholders' conference with the Copac draft, but the national report should be printed before the conference so that everyone can have a copy and compare it with the Copac draft," said Gumbo.

Douglas Mwonzora, spokesperson of the MDC faction led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said that Zanu-PF's latest demands were misplaced and undermined the authority of Parliament.

Political analyst Trevor Maisiri, from the International Crisis Group, said "Zanu-PF may actually want to discredit the current draft constitution by showing the glaring differences between the compromises in the draft against what may be contained in the national report".

Meanwhile, civil society groups remain opposed to the draft constitution process, which, they argue, has seen the affair become a battlefield for the country's three main political parties. Philani Zamchiya, the regional director of Crisis in Coalition of Zimbabwe, said: "We are concerned that the three main political parties have once again decided to make this important process a political party event, while excluding the voice of the people," said Zamchiya. "We are convinced that the second stakeholders conference is a space for ordinary people and hence must not be hijacked by political players who have been active in the constitution-making process for the past three and half years."


MDC slams referendum and election dates

President Robert Mugabe on Thursday set out plans for a constitutional referendum in November and elections in March, a timetable that was quickly denounced by the opposition as "unrealistic".

In a High Court filing, Mugabe set out his most concrete timetable to date for two votes that are key to a bipartisan deal designed to stop Zimbabwe from descending further into political violence.

Mugabe listed a "referendum, expected to take place during the first week of November" and the plan to "hold the harmonised elections in the last week of March".

Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said "the dates being proposed are clearly not feasible", adding that the election date was "unilateral [and] unrealistic".

Mwonzora said that the MDC was more concerned about conditions under which the vote would takes place rather than the date. "For us to meet those dates, Zanu-PF has to change drastically." – AFP


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