THE impasse around the draft constitution escalated this week after ZANU-PF's partners in the inclusive government declared a deadlock in what has led to the Southern African Development Community (SADC), for the umpteenth time, being asked to intervene in the latest crisis to hit the coalition government ahead of fresh polls.
The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal that the chairperson of the SADC Troika on Politics, Defence and Security, Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and the facilitator to the Zimbabwe crisis; South African President Jacob Zuma could be heading for the country in the next few weeks in desperate attempts to break the gridlock over a new constitution.
SADC leaders agreed in Maputo, Mozambique about two weeks ago that Zuma and Kikwete would make the trip to Harare in the event of a stalemate in the constitution-making process to help ZANU-PF and the MDC factions find each other since the country was pressed for time in terms of holding fresh elections.
The coming of Zuma and Kikwete as the facilitator in the Zimbabwe dialogue and SADC Troika chairperson respectively could ratchet up pressure on the Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals as SADC leaders are pushing for the final resolution of the Zimbabwe crisis, which has topped nearly all the summits of the regional grouping since 2008.
The two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have shredded the draft re-written by ZANU-PF, claiming it was designed to perpetuate President Robert Mugabe's hold on power, specifically with polls to bring closure to the coalition government looming.
Both formations separately told Zuma's facilitation team, which was in Harare from Tuesday, in no uncertain terms they will not renegotiate with ZANU-PF on the new charter, insisting the draft produced by the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) was final.
The two formations proceeded to declare a deadlock, pointing out that ZANU-PF unilaterally rewrote the COPAC draft to give President Mugabe unlimited executive powers, among other raft of changes seen favourable to ZANU-PF ahead of polls.
They argued ZANU-PF was insincere in its amendments since all parties were represented in the COPAC process and actively took part in negotiations, sometimes asking for time to consult their political parties. The MDCs further claimed their bitter rivals' insincerity was shown by the way they have sort to subvert the constitution drafting process several times.
ZANU-PF's amendments had already torched a storm before the SADC Summit in Mozambique two weeks ago. The summit then tried to create an atmosphere of tolerance and negotiation by ordering that the GPA principals meet and resolve the impasse.
But up to now, President Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and MDC leader Welshman Ncube, who the summit recognised as a principal ahead of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, had not met for that specific business.
Mozambican President Armando Emilio Guebuza and Joyce Banda of Malawi are now chairperson and deputy chairperson of SADC respectively. This too has also heightened expectations in Zimbabwe as Banda in particular is known for her reformist attitude.
The chief negotiator from Ncube's MDC, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga confirmed yesterday that her party had declared a deadlock.
"Yes, the facilitators met bilaterally with political parties yesterday (Tuesday). Our position, as the MDC, is that we have formally declared a deadlock and asked the facilitation team to invoke the Maputo clause," she said.
"This means the facilitator and the Troika will have to come and engage with the parties," she added.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said her party explained to the facilitators that Ncube had received the ZANU-PF amendments to the COPAC draft but the MDC could not entertain them because doing so would have legitimised the ZANU-PF draft.
She said the COPAC management committee was mandated to come up with a draft constitution and negotiated throughout the process, with the negotiators frequently consulting their respective political parties and so this precluded further negotiations at this stage.
"For us, there is absolutely no negotiation. A perusal of their amended version shows that it is on fundamental issues that changes have been made and therefore there is no basis for negotiations," said Misihairabwi-Mushonga.
"We have not done any reforms as we should have. Most of those reforms are predicated on agreement on the constitution and these guys are stalling so that we do not have reforms and go to elections under the old Constitution without reforms," she added.
Ncube has also written a letter to Zuma declaring a deadlock. This position resonates with Prime Minister Tsvangirai's party.
In briefings to journalists at his Munhumutapa offices on Tuesday, Tsvangirai said he would not reopen negotiations on the COPAC draft and declared a deadlock.
"The new document by ZANU-PF is a completely new document which is at variance with what the people said . . .We cannot negotiate in perpetuity," said the premier.