The final revision of Zimbabwe’s controversial draft constitution has been completed and will be officially launched next week, a highly placed source told SW Radio Africa.
The new charter is supposed to enshrine reform and transparency, but representatives of Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF and the Movement for Democratic Change have struggled to compromise on such contentious issues as devolution and executive prerogatives.
Police in Bulawayo this week arrested over 100 members of the Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA – right) coalition as they held a sit-in protest calling for the release of the draft Constitution.
Some observers fear that the Constitution Select Committee, or Copac, will fail to deliver a workable constitutional compromise.
“They are bickering mostly over the issue of executive structure, devolution and dual citizenship not for the benefit of Zimbabwe as a whole, but for their own satisfaction,” said Munjonzi Mutandiri, a South African based political analyst.
‘They are wasting time on these issues instead of agreeing and moving ahead. We may not be surprised if the 12 months set by SADC to resolve issues arrives without the country having a new constitution,” he said.
Civil society groups claim that the political parties failed to adopt an open, consultative approach to the constitutional drafting process which emerged from the power-sharing General Political Agreement (GPA).
The National Constitutional Assembly, a leading civil society group, is planning to mobilize for a no vote to the new constitution because it reflects the interests of the three main political parties and is not driven by the people, a meeting organized by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network heard this week:
[The NCA’s Professor Lovemore] Madhuku said that the political parties are in control of the process. He envisaged a scenario whereby the GPA principals might adopt the constitution without subjecting the draft to a Constitutional Referendum. He urged people to judge the COPAC draft on both the process and the content.
“The COPAC process is now an embarrassment to the political parties spearheading it. In maintaining their entrenched positions, the political parties are simply declaring an impasse and revealing a lot of problems in COPAC,” said Madock Chivasa, an NCA spokesman
“It will be equally embarrassing if COPAC fail to produce even a bad document considering the millions of donor funds they used in this bogus process. We maintain that a serious process of coming up with Zimbabwe’s constitution can only be achieved if all stakeholders are involved,” he said.
Civil Society groups complain that they have been unable to access funding from donors focused on the constitution making process.
Despite objections from ZANU-PF, members of the armed forces will be forbidden from taking part in active politics, a well-placed source told SW Radio Africa:
“All the contentious issues have been dealt with after the parties came up with suggestions that were acceptable to all. To show you how far things have moved, the negotiators are now dealing with transitional mechanisms, especially on how they will move from the current constitution to the next.
“In this regard, the posts of President and Prime Minister will remain in force until after the next elections when a new leader is inaugurated. This is meant not to create a power vacuum,” the source added.
The new charter will have an executive president answerable to Parliament and checked by a strengthened Judiciary. After nearly two weeks of negotiations over the contentious issues in a draft prepared by the parliamentary select committee, the negotiators also unanimously agreed to abolish the position of Prime Minister.
The new constitution is designed to redistribute political power away from the capital, Harare, to eight provincial councils created under devolution. Under the new system, the national government will provide a given percentage of budgets to the provincial legislature, which will comprise elected parliamentarians, senators and local council officials.
This Electoral College will recommend a governor whose appointment will be done by the President.
In the current constitution power is concentrated in the executive branch of government, which has seen Robert Mugabe unilaterally appoint high officials, including judges and governor of the Reserve Bank. But in the new system, parliamentarians will get involved in making appointments.
The new constitution will include provision for decentralization of authority, which has been fiercely resisted by Mugabe’s ZANU-PF.
“There is an agreement of some sort,” said MDC national director for policy and research co-ordination Qhubani Moyo. “Over and above what has been reported, the agreement is that the 10 MPs who get to the provincial assembly through proportional representation will have power in that assembly.”
Under the deal agreed by the parties, the country’s 10 provinces will each have a provincial assembly made up of Members of Parliament and Senators, representatives of local authorities and 10 individuals elected by proportional representation as well as a provincial governor.
The provincial assembly will nominate two possible candidates for governor, which they will forward to the President who will choose from the two.
But Dumisani Mpofu, the director of Matabeleland-based civil society group Masakhaneni Trust, said the agreement was not acceptable.
“Our major concern is that the kind of devolution that they have agreed on is not devolution at all, but decentralisation,” he said.
Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda director Effie Ncube said the agreement by the parties was “a victory for darkness”.
“It’s a victory for darkness, a victory for retrogressive forces, those that are opposed to equality and democracy,” he said.
The National Constitutional Assembly, WOZA and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network are grantees of the National Endowment for Democracy.
The World Movement for Democracy, the Solidarity Center,
and the National Endowment for Democracy cordially invite you to attend a conference on:
Tuesday, July 10th, 2012
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
1025 F Street NW, 8th Floor
RSVP (acceptances only) with name and affiliation
by Friday, July 6th, 2012
With Zimbabwe’s constitutional reform process coming to an end, and preparations for a referendum and possible national elections being made, new political dynamics are taking hold and it is time for both Zimbabweans and the international community to reassess opportunities for democratic reform.