24 October 2012

Zimbabwe: No Major Changes to Constitution Following Conference

Any changes to the draft constitution following the second All-Stakeholders conference in Harare will only be based on consensus, a COPAC co-chairman said on Wednesday.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spokesman and COPAC co-chair, told SW Radio Africa they would only make changes to the draft charter if everyone in the various thematic committees wanted changes.

'The most important thing to come out of this conference is that people accepted the draft. They did not reject it as had been hoped by some skeptics and destructive elements of society.

'What people did was to try and improve the draft and certainly not to reject it. We have few areas where delegates wanted improvements, but the rest wanted it like that,' Mwonzora said, adding they were quite happy that everything went according to plan.

Asked to give an example of what constituted a consensus, the Nyanga North MP explained; 'Delegates noted that the right of youths to education and empowerment was in the national objective and not in chapter 4 of the Declaration of Rights. A point was therefore made that the rights of youths must be put in the Declaration of Rights and there was no argument against that. That's an example of consensus.'

However Mwonzora said there was no consensus on many of the contentious issues such as devolution.'But this is not a new disagreement, it's a disagreement we were aware of when we drafted the constitution. In a nutshell there won't be wholesale changes to the draft and they can't be a deadlock because there was nothing new that was brought on the contentious issues.' he said.

While it didn't take time for some thematic committees to give thumbs up to the draft, others dealing with devolution, dual citizenship, security services and the executive took hours arguing on the need to make changes to some clauses. But the arguments came to nothing.

It's also reported that it took less than 30 minutes for the thematic committee on principles of public administration and leadership to finish its work without making any changes or recommendations.

The two day conference was attended by over a thousand delegates and COPAC has already started compiling a report and will send it to parliament, together with the draft and a national report.

Mwonzora reiterated that only Parliament and not the principals, as stated by Robert Mugabe, had the right to make changes to the draft.

'Mugabe's message was confused and confusing. He seems to be implying that the principals must do the constitution themselves. They cannot do that. We (COPAC) are writing the constitution and we are capable of doing any adjustments to the draft.

'The principals can of course intervene where there is a problem, to ensure that the COPAC program runs smoothly like what happened with the conference. The principals will have a say when the constitution is taken to cabinet,' the MP said.

Meanwhile, it's reported that controversial businessman and ZANU PF delegate Themba Mliswa grabbed a COPAC video camera and fled with it after noticing the cameraman filming him during the deliberations.

Newsday reported on Wednesday that Mliswa was filmed while blaming his party "for failing to coach the delegates well." He demanded that the cameraman delete the recording, but when the cameraman refused Mliswa wrested it from him, in the presence of the police who did nothing.

Mliswa later told journalists he had taken the camera to Harare Central Police Station.

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