20 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Hopes Rise for End to Copac Deadlock

Prospects for a breakthrough on the COPAC deadlock rose on Monday as the principals seemed to drop their demands to have a final say on the new charter.

The ZANU PF principal to the GPA, Robert Mugabe, previously insisted he and his coalition partners had the mandate to negotiate the constitution, not parliament.

But following a meeting of the principals on Monday, which was in part attended by Eric Matinenga, the Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, it now appears the political leaders are committed to let the process move forward as outlined in the GPA.

Douglas Mwonzora, the COPAC co-chairmen and MDC-T spokesman, told SW Radio Africa on Tuesday the principals had asked Matinenga to write to them on the way forward.

Matinenga's views on the charter are well known, especially his insistence that when it came to COPAC, he was guided by Article 6 of the GPA, which states that parliament should drive constitutional reform.

Analysts believe this is likely to be the same advice he will recommend to the principals, that COPAC should be allowed to run its course and not be usurped by the executive.

ZANU PF has been calling for amendments to the draft, claiming it did not reflect the views of the people. But Matinenga said:'I had discussions with Matinenga yesterday (Monday) after his meeting with the principals and advised us he had been told (by the principals) they had no intention whatsoever to interfere with the drafting of the constitution.

'All they wanted to know was the progress of the constitution and advice from the Minister on how the program is going to be moved forward.'

Asked if this signaled an immediate breakthrough, Mwonzora said it was a glimmer of hope, but they had to wait until Matinenga submits his written report to the principals with his recommendations.

'Until he does that, we will have to wait but I have confidence that the parties would want to move this process forward to enable us to present the draft to parliament.

'I think there is real hope for that breakthrough. But obviously discussions over the next few weeks will tell us whether that hope is well founded or not.'

His optimism was shared by the chairman of the MDC-T UK, Tonderai Samanyanga, who said a deal was possible.

'I am very optimistic that the level and quality of the work that has been achieved so far on the draft has prospects of enabling the country to move positively on to a referendum and eventually elections.

'A constitution should not be designed to suit Mugabe, Tsvangirai or Ncube. A constitution must look at a nation and its people and should last for generations and not the period Mugabe wants to be in power,' Samanyanga said.

Four months ago COPAC released the draft constitution which, although a less than perfect document, to some extent does curtail the sweeping powers of the presidency, enhance individual rights and give more power to local governments.

A new constitution for Zimbabwe was an integral part of the power-sharing deal in 2008 after a disputed election erupted in widespread bloodshed. The violence killed over 500 MDC supporters, maimed thousands and displaced close to half a million others.

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