7 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Zanu-PF Losing Ground

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe appears to be losing ground in the constitution-making process as dissenting voices within ZANU-PF against his plan to railroad changes to the draft constitution grow, giving impetus to Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations that are out to block him, The Financial Gazette can exclusively reveal.

Information obtained by this paper this week indicates that even though ZANU-PF's Politburo proposed 266 amendments to the draft constitution, there is still internal dissent within the party over the idea.

ZANU-PF has faced resistance in incorporating its amendments into the draft charter with indications pointing to piecemeal changes following the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee (COPAC)'s meetings this week to take stock of input received during the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference.

The only chance for President Mugabe to have his way rests with his success in convincing the other principals in the inclusive government namely Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube, the leader of the MDC.

Previously, the incumbent has outmanoeuvred his government of national unity partners in making key decisions with a bearing on governance of the country.

The constitution-making process has, however, proved to be a thorn in the backside for the veteran politician whose COPAC negotiators are currently under fire from colleagues in ZANU-PF for making too many concessions favourable to the MDC formations.

In a bid to fortify his position, the ZANU-PF leader said the current supreme law-making exercise was not Parliament-driven, arguing that he has the power to strike down offending clauses in the draft.

ZANU-PF is not comfortable with proposals in the draft charter to introduce presidential running mates amid fears that it could force its leader to play his succession card publicly. President Mugabe has in the past said his successor would come from the people.

His party is opposed to clauses that whittle down presidential powers and ring changes to the Attorney General's Office by hiving off the prosecution department, in addition to introducing a constitutional court.

The draft also introduces partial security sector reforms, which President Mugabe has long opposed by putting limits to the terms of office of service chiefs and bringing the intelligence service under Parliamentary oversight.

Despite ZANU-PF's bid to forestall these changes, leading figures in the party are now said to be intent on preserving them, undermining their leader's plans to take-over the process.

ZANU-PF chief negotiator, Patrick Chinamasa and other members of ZANU-PF's COPAC negotiating team have been branded sell-outs by some of their colleagues for consenting to the offending clauses during the drafting of the draft charter.

The party's secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa has, however, come to Chinamasa's defence.

To underline the existence of dissent within ZANU-PF over President Mugabe's position, his party's COPAC co-chair, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, on Tuesday sharply differed with his leader on the process, including the President's view that the exercise should not be Parliament-driven.

"You should read Article V1 of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) for the facts. The people would have the final say on the constitution. The principals would vote in the referendum as individuals," said Mangwana.

Article V1 of the GPA alluded to by Mangwana deals with steps to be followed in crafting the constitution and does not have any room or special dispensation for the principals.

"The parties hereby agree: (a) that they shall set up a Select Committee of Parliament composed of representatives of the parties whose terms of reference shall be as follows: (i) to set up such sub-committees chaired by a Member of Parliament and composed of Members of Parliament and representatives of civil society as may be necessary to assist the Select Committee in performing its mandate herein;" reads part of the GPA.

It further notes: " . . . (IV) to table its draft constitution to a Second All-Stakeholders' Conference; and (V) to report to Parliament on its recommendations over the content of a new constitution for Zimbabwe (b) that the draft constitution recommended by the Select Committee shall be submitted to a referendum."

Sources this week said the view that the principals should not be allowed to tamper with the process is not shared by Mangwana only, but by a considerable number of ZANU-PF officials who feel that the national interest is better served if individuals were not allowed to tinker with the process.

Officially opening the final session of the present Parliament last week, President Mugabe appeared to mock the co-chairpersons of COPAC, stating that they were getting big-headed over the issue.

He stated that the buck stopped with the principals and not Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T point-person in the COPAC process.

Over the weekend, State media columnist, Nathaniel Manheru, sought to pour cold water on Mangwana's apparent opposition to his leader's stance, claiming that the lawyer-turned-politician was a lone figure in ZANU-PF opposed to President Mugabe's plan.

"Just picture this: Biti, Mwonzora, Matinenga, Ncube, Mangwana are reluctant to have the draft handed over to principals. For Mangwana, it's less opposing his principal and more defending his draft as a lawyer . . . Mangwana can't personify a trend of dissent in ZANU-PF. He is too much of a lightweight to do so, too much of a maverick to represent any faction," wrote Manheru. Eric Matinenga is the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.

Indications point to opposition increasingly building up in ZANU-PF over plans to highjack the process by the country's political leaders.

The growing opposition comes against a backdrop of previous objections within ZANU-PF to President Mugabe's electoral plans.

Last year, Chinamasa was in the eye of the storm after he differed with President Mugabe's push for elections in 2012, saying voting was only likely in 2013..

The lack of consensus in ZANU-PF over the constitution-making process could weaken the party's position at a time when its rivals have closed ranks on the matter.

Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Ncube, leaders of rival MDC formations, are opposed to the ZANU-PF's leader's preferred route in constitution-making.

In an interview this week, Matinenga said President Mugabe's position was more of an opinion than a constitutional point.

Matinenga backed Mangwana's assertion that the GPA's Article V1 takes precedence in the crafting of a new charter for the country.

The constitutional affairs minister said the principals would be given copies of the draft for their information only and not to tinker with the document.

"We also recall that at the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference, the Prime Minister clearly stated that this was an Article V1 process, a Parliamentary process. So when the President says the principals have said this, one wonders which principals. The PM has said no, Professor Ncube has said no," said Matinenga.

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