It’s been a tough road for Zimbabwe’s 11-month-old process of drawing up a new constitution. The exercise has been marred by violent clashes among opposition members in Harare and allegations of intimidation by Zanu-PF youth and of data manipulated by state security agents.
Now the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (Copac), which is spearheading the drafting process, faces a lawsuit over an unpaid bill of $200 000 for advertising.
A local media consultancy company, Glomedia, is suing the cash-strapped Copac for failing to pay it for a wide range of services it provided between June 2009 and November 2010. These include the production of audio and video jingles broadcast on the state-owned Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) and a wide range of print materials, including manuals, posters, booklets, flyers and banners.
Although Glomedia had approached Copac for payment, it said that Copac had displayed “for a long time erratic, intransigent behaviour that had left it with no choice but to rely on litigation to protect its rights”.
Glomedia, which is owned by a former ZBC producer, has sent a summons to the three joint chairpersons of Copac, Paul Mangwana, Douglas Mwonzora and Edward Mkhosi. Mangwana has dismissed suggestions that the lawsuit could disrupt the constitutional process, saying “Copac will pay all its dues”.
Jessie Majome, a Copac member, said: “We can confirm that they are suing Copac. They are entitled to use the law to obtain recourse. Our only surprise is that they did so without giving us any letter.”
But the case underscores Copac’s long-standing financial woes. A source close to the organisation said: “Some members of Parliament are yet to receive payment for the three-month-long outreach work they carried out last year during the collection of people’s views on a new constitution.”
Underfunding has posed a major challenge to Zimbabwe’s bid to draw up a new constitution to replace the current independence-era Lancaster House Constitution. Another $1.8-million is needed to complete the process.
A shortage of funds has even affected the country’s bid to hold elections this year — an estimated $400-million would be needed by the Zimbabwe Election Commission to conduct the polls.
Copac’s current cash crisis follows closely on the withdrawal of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from the process last month because of disagreements with Zanu-PF over the compilation of data. The MDC accused Zanu-PF of “rigging” the process by favouring data from rural areas while sidelining that of urban dwellers.
The MDC enjoys widespread support in urban areas, while Zanu-PF has maintained a grip on the rural vote through violence and intimidation.
The move is seen by observers as an arm-twisting tactic. Since the MDC succeeded in getting its candidate elected as parliamentary speaker, it has been consolidating its strength around the constitution-making process and has resisted Zanu-PF’s attempts to hijack it.
Lovemore Moyo, the MDC-linked speaker, has warned that he will not back a flawed constitution. “I will not sign a constitution that does not contain the views of Zimbabweans, and President Robert Mugabe can’t do anything. This is the reason why Zanu-PF is pained that I am the speaker of Parliament.”