SW Radio Africa (London)

21 June 2012

Zimbabwe: Progress Reported in Copac Talks Over New Constitution

Photo: Umsoto/Flickr/IRIN
President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the government of national unity.

Some 'significant progress' was made during three days of talks to finalize a draft of the new constitution by COPAC, the Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister said on Thursday.

Eric Matinenga said following a tense round of talks in Nyanga between parties to the GPA, it was encouraging that the management committee had recorded success on some of the issues that had previously threatened the completion of a draft constitution.

'Unfortunately there was not sufficient time to enable us to finish the task on hand, that is why when we adjourned yesterday (Wednesday) we had not yet completed our task,' Matinenga said.

The lawyer-come-politician told SW Radio Africa that because of the delicate nature of the process he was not at liberty to say what was agreed and how far they'd gone in revising the draft.

'As I said, significant progress has been made, but as management committee we are keen to finalize this process, and we certainly want to see to it that we deliver that document to the people of Zimbabwe.

'We are fully aware of the expectations of the people of Zimbabwe and we want to meet their expectations,' the Minister said.

The management committee will resume talks on Monday next week with the aim of sealing an agreement before the end of June. The Nyanga meeting was attended by Matinenga as chairperson of the management committee.

Party negotiators were Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche, ZANU PF, Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma MDC-T; Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Moses Mzila Ndlovu, MDC.

COPAC co-chairs Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana ZANUPF, Douglas Mwonzora MDC-T and Edward Mkhosi MDC were in attendance at the secluded lodge. However, the area surrounding the Ruparara lodge was teeming with aides representing the parties and state security agents, all keeping a close watch on the events from a distance.

While Matinenga was reluctant to divulge what was agreed, SW Radio Africa was informed there was some sort of agreement over devolution.

A source told us that while they agreed in principle on devolution, there was no information on how they settled the matter, amid suggestions its inclusion in the new charter would be enacted by an Act of Parliament.

'In principle, they (management committee) could argue that they resolved the devolution issue by agreeing to have it finalized by a full parliament. Others may disagree and say it has been parked until it has been dealt with by Parliament, which is what ZANU PF wanted,' Dewa Mavhinga, a lwayer and pro-democracy activist said. Other contentious issues were not discussed owing to the manner in which the revision of the draft was structured.

'We went through quite a number of chapters and what we were doing was not to pick on issues but just to start from page one and going through the whole draft, chapter by chapter. Ideally we were not looking for outstanding issues or issues in contention. We tackled issues as they came up from page one going forward,' Matinenga added.

It is believed a positive outcome of the talks would open the way for the release of a final draft of the constitution that has taken three years to compile. Following the formation of the inclusive government in 2009 there was optimism the country would have a new constitution by 2010.

But political bickering among the parties in the shaky government derailed this time frame. Continuous disputes between ZANU PF and the MDC-T have complicated the process, a spectacle that Zimbabweans are observing with increasing dismay.

'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,' remarked 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.

The executive structure that Mutandiri referred to is a proposal to reduce presidential powers. Under the present constitution Robert Mugabe enjoys immense powers.

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The final revision of the draft constitution - promising reform and transparency - has been completed and will be officially launched next week. Read more »