19 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Delays and Deadlocks Denying Democracy to Zimbabweans

Photo: Buanews
File photo: President Jacob Zuma, center, with President Robert Mugabe, right, on a previous working visit to Zimbabwe.

The people of Zimbabwe are being short-changed by the political parties in the government of national unity (GNU), whose bickering over procedure has caused numerous delays and deadlocks that are blocking the road to a referendum and elections.

There are also fears that Robert Mugabe could use his executive powers to dismiss parliament and unilaterally call for elections, using the old Lancaster House Constitution.

A review of what has happened since the 2nd All Stakeholder Conference on the constitution clearly shows how the new charter has been passed back and forth between different committees that fail to find common ground.

Just weeks after that conference in Harare, a new deadlock over procedure has halted progress. Once again demands by ZANU PF over who should have the final say are blocking the path towards a referendum, where people will decide on the new constitution.

The Select Committee of COPAC met on 5th and 6th November to finalise their report on the conference. They announced to the press on November 7th that the report had been completed and by the next day it was in the hands of the Management Committee, who are also the GPA negotiators.

The Management Committee decided to return the report to the Select Committee for changes, which included the inclusion of speeches made at the conference's opening ceremony. This was done by the Select Committee, which then returned the revised report back to the Management Committee.

So what happens next?

Innocent Gonese, the parliamentary chief whip, admitted that sending the report back and forth has created a ridiculous cycle that is repetitive and should not continue.

"The GPA negotiators are also members of the Management Committee, and they had access to the principals when they signed the current COPAC draft. So if there is disagreement, the status quo remains and we go with the draft they all signed," Gonese told SW Radio Africa.

Gonese also dismissed any suggestion that Mugabe would call elections unilaterally, using his executive powers. He said that the 19th Amendment to the current constitution, the GPA, clearly says Mugabe would need to consult the Prime Minister and get agreement before calling elections. "This was clearly defined on purpose," Gonese said.

Madock Chivasa from the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) blamed the lack of progress on the roadmap that defined the process as a parliamentary undertaking and not a people-driven process.

At the last meeting of the Management Committee on Monday November12th, they agreed to include contributions from the conference on which delegates had reached agreement. But they failed to reach any agreement on the areas where delegates disagreed.

The areas of disagreement are due to the changes that ZANU PF has said it wants.

ZANU PF is currently insisting the report be sent to the principals to make the final decisions, with the MDC formations saying that parliament should now take over.

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