BATTLE lines have been drawn over ZANU-PF's proposed changes to the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) draft as the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have rejected the amendments.
President Robert Mugabe on Tuesday handed a copy of the changes being proposed by his party to his main rival, Prime Minister Tsvangirai. He also handed copies to Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube, the leader of the other MDC faction. ZANU-PF has been angered by the dilution of executive powers, the issue of presidential running mates, dual citizenship, the abolition of the death penalty and devolution.
In the case of devolution, the party has deleted the word "devolution" and replaced it with "decentralisation of service." It has taken out dual citizenship and restated the death penalty. ZANU-PF also wants the retention of the office of the Attorney General instead of its replacement by a National Prosecuting Authority as proposed in the COPAC draft.
But the MDC formations yesterday said the amendments were unacceptable, pledging to defend the COPAC draft. Ncube said ZANU-PF was seeking to preserve the status quo ahead of elections.
"I have studied the amendments ZANU-PF has made to the draft and I am astonished at the sheer scale of disrespect, contempt, insult and audacity exhibited by the amendments," he said.
"There are only three possible interpretations of it, namely that ZANU-PF thinks we are so desperate for a new constitution that we will cling to a serpent or that we are stupid or that their strategy is to make such preposterous amendments that no sane party will accept so as to collapse the whole process with a view to maintaining the status quo," he added.
The MDC leader said, in many respects, the ZANU-PF draft makes the COPAC draft worse than the current Constitution.
"Even at our most foolish, there is no way we could ever accept those amendments. Anyone who does so would be committing political suicide. In fact, the draft is not just an insult on us but is also a mockery of the people who took time to make representations to COPAC," said Ncube.
"And this move they have made has brought them very close to their wish to burn down the country by having a rerun of the 2008 elections . . . If an election without a new constitution is the only way to move forward, then let it be. On our part we are not going to betray the people's struggle for a democratic constitution. We will not yield an inch. We will provide the leadership required for the people to take up the struggle at the elections. up the struggle at the elections. The battle lines are truly drawn," said Ncube.
At the last Southern African Development Community summit in Maputo, Mozambique, regional leaders urged the principals in the inclusive government to expedite the constitution-making process by dealing with the contentious issues in the draft.
The COPAC draft proposes that every candidate for election as President must nominate two persons to stand for election jointly with him or her as his or her Vice-Presidents, and must designate one of those persons as his or her candidate for first Vice-President and the other as his or her candidate for second Vice-President.
The MDC formations have welcomed the principle of running mates with Prime Minister Tsvangirai having anointed Deputy Prime Minister Thokozani Khupe as his choice by virtue of being his second in command in the party. Qhubani Moyo, the MDC's secretary for policy and research, said the issue of a running mate will guarantee continuity and smooth transition of power.
Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spokesperson and the party's point person at COPAC said the committee had a mandate to produce a good constitution hence the need to benchmark the constitution against the best in the world.
"The main attraction to the running mate option is that it is a tried and tested issue. It has been successfully used for example in countries like United States of America, Japan, Ghana, and Mal-awi," said Mwonzora.
Philip Chapfunga, a representative of Simba Makoni's Mavambo/Kus-ile/Dawn, said the principle of running mates was a noble idea, adding that it discouraged individualism.
"It sets clear outline on succession. Just look at the smooth transition of power after the death of Malawian president Bingu Mutharika," he said.
He however, cautioned that Zimbabwe was too small a state to have two vice presidents. Hav-ing two vice presidents might also lead to the duplication of responsibilities, he reasoned.