19 September 2012

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF in Constitution Climb-Down

ZANU-PF has made a major climb-down on the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) draft constitution amid mounting pressure from regional allies and both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to take the disputed draft charter to the second All Stakeholders' Conference.

The liberation war party had drawn the ire of its political foes when it unilaterally amended COPAC's draft constitution in successive politburo sessions leading up to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) summit held in Maputo, Mozambique last month.

But the 266 amendments ZANU-PF had effected were flatly rejected by the labour and civil society backed MDCs on the basis that the COPAC draft had been reached after painstaking negotiations involving all parties to the inclusive government through their COPAC representatives.

The COPAC negotiations, which took more than three years, saw party representatives often engaging in wide consultations with their political parties.

Authoritative sources said ZANU-PF, at its Politburo meeting last week, changed course and is now amenable to the COPAC draft being taken to the second All Stakeholders' Conference.

Early this month, the MDCs had declared an impasse and asked SADC to invoke the Maputo Declaration which implies that the regional body's Troika on Politics, Defence and Security headed by Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete intervenes.

In fact, the Troika had last week slotted discussions on Zimbabwe for October 7, 2012.

Less than a month ago, ZANU-PF had insisted that they were not going to bend backwards on amendments they had effected on the COPAC draft, claiming the committee did not capture what the people said during outreach programmes conducted prior to the constitution drafting.

But ZANU-PF's about turn could now mean an alteration of the agenda of the SADC Troika meeting to simply reviewing progress and preparations for the All Stakeholders' Conference.

Yet sources within MDC-T are curious of ZANU-PF's intentions, questioning whether their foes do not have anything up their sleeve come the conference.

This has been exacerbated by the numerous calls by groups aligned to ZANU-PF for the national report, which bears the different admissions to the outreach sessions held to solicit views of the people.

The outreach programmes were also fraught with conflict and bickering with the two MDCs accusing ZANU-PF of coaching presenters at the different venues while violence erupted in some places.

That the COPAC draft was a negotiated document between the three political parties has its own problems. It means that parties compromised where they differed and so ignored what came from the outreach programmes.

Contacted for comment on Tuesday, ZANU-PF spokesperson, Rugare Gumbo, was singing a different tune from a month ago. He declared that there was no impasse, ruling out any climb-down on the constitution.

"We have not had any climb-down. We had never opposed the All Stakeholders' Conference. We have said time and again, we follow the Global Political Agreement (GPA) . . . There is no impasse, as far as we are concerned, the principals are consulting, after that we go to the conference where we expect to hear the people's views," said Gumbo in a telephone interview.

He added that ZANU-PF expects that there will be two documents at the second All Stakeholders' Conference - the COPAC draft and the national report. This, sources say, points to another explosive All Stakeholders' Conference, reminiscent of the first one in 2009, which was marred by ugly scenes of violence.

"ZANU-PF is banking on the national report to scuttle the COPAC draft at which point they will produce their amended version," said one official of the MDC-T who declined to be named.

But according to Gumbo, ZANU-PF also expects that there will not be any voting at the second All Stakeholders' Conference. Each party will have about 600 delegates at the conference, clearly giving the two MDC formations an advantage in the event of a vote hence Gumbo's notion that this will not be so.

While Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Eric Matinenga, could not be reached for comment, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's spokesperson, Luke Tamborinyoka insisted ZANU-PF had indeed made a huge climb- down.

"That was a real somersault. They have had a major climb-down, their new position is what we have been saying all along," said Tamborinyoka.

President Mugabe, PM Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, as the three principals of the political parties in the GPA, are yet to meet ahead of the eagerly awaited second All Stakeholders' Conference.

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