Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Scrambles to Protect Grabbed Farms

ZANU PF is scrambling for a clause in the draft constitution which will require 80% approval in a referendum to amend the constitution in reference to land issues, a move widely seen as an attempt to protect its senior officials and supporters who grabbed farms during the chaotic land reform exercise.

The proposal is among the 200 recommendations Zanu PF made on the draft constitution currently under discussion.

Most of the Zanu PF demands -- which seek to fundamentally change the draft constitution -- are geared towards preserving the current imperial presidency and institutional arrangements. But a compromise has been reached on most of the issues, according to the Independent's briefings with negotiators.

Some of Zanu PF's demands include that the military should be allowed to play an active part in national politics; the president should appoint commissions without parliamentary approval; there should be no constitutional court as demanded by the people but a "division" of the Supreme Court; there should not be devolution of power to the provinces; executive authority must only vest in the president and the president shall not be answerable to parliament on deploying troops, among other things.

Zanu PF also wanted the registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede to remain in charge of voter registration with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, whose staff it is refusing to change, only "supervising the process". The party also wanted the Attorney-General to retain his prosecuting powers but not sit in cabinet and parliament.

It was also demanding the maintaining of the two vice-presidents, although the idea of a running mate, who automatically becomes the first vice-president, is being discussed. Seats in parliament will also be increased by 60 reserved for woman despite that the method of distribution is still in dispute.

On land, Zanu PF wanted Section 7.2 (a) of the draft to include it was "resolved to include the Land section 4.24, which requires 80% approval in referendum when amending the constitution in section 18.12".

This is widely seen as an attempt to make land issues irreversible under the new constitution. President Robert Mugabe and senior Zanu PF officials, including ministers, seized vast tracts of land from displaced commercial farmers.

On devolution, Zanu PF wants it to be called "decentralisation" and be left to an Act of Parliament to deal with under the principles and tiers of government, although the issue has not been resolved.

Under the deal agreed by the parties last week, the country's 10 provinces will each have a provincial assembly made up of MPs and senators from that region, representatives of local authorities and 10 individuals elected by proportional representation as well as a provincial governor.

"When it comes to the issue of governor, the provincial assembly will nominate two candidates for the post and forward the names to the president who will then formally appoint one of those," one negotiator said.

Under the current constitution, the president appoints governors invariably from his party which lost the last election.

Zanu PF was also demanding that the proposed constitutional court must be deleted from the draft and replaced with "constitutional division of the Supreme Court". The issue is one of the most contested matters as Zanu PF seems afraid of having different judges other than the current Supreme Court bench presiding over constitutional matters. Most of the current judges were elevated after the party had purged the bench of "undesirable elements" at the height of the land reform programme and political repression after 2000.

On the election of the president, Zanu PF wanted the 50 plus one concept, which is in the Electoral Act, to be revisited and embedded in the constitution. The party is also insisting on a clause which says the "president takes precedence over all persons in Zimbabwe" after the draft discarded this.

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