21 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Silver Lining in Draft Deadlock

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

PRINCIPALS in the Global Political Agreement have tasked the Minister responsible for the constitution-making exercise to proffer recommendations aimed at breaking the impasse around the sticky issues in the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) draft, providing a silver lining to the conclusion of the process.

ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) have been deadlocked over the issues of presidential powers, devolution of power, the establishment of an independent National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), dual citizenship and the creation of a constitutional court.

While ZANU-PF favours wide-sweeping presidential powers, the MDC formations want limited powers for the President.

The MDC formations want devolution of power to be enshrined enshrined in the new constitution but ZANU-PF is flatly against this, arguing that it would have the potential of dividing the nation.

Regarding the NPA, ZANU-PF is seeking the retention of the office of the Attorney-General while the MDCs want an independent entity similar to South Africa's NPA.

There are also disagreements on whether to have a mono or dual citizenship and the creation of a Constitutional Court.

ZANU-PF argues that there is no need for the creation of a separate constitutional court when constitutional matters can be handled by the Supreme Court.

It however, emerged yesterday that the principals have delegated Eric Matinenga, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs to make recommendations on the contentious issues as they move to try and end the impasse.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara met on Monday to receive an update on the new constitution. At the meeting, Matinenga, who gave the update, was mandated to make recommendations to break the stalemate.

Matinenga confirmed to The Financial Gazette yesterday that he was seized with trying to resolve the deadlock adding that the larger part of the draft would remain the same.

"I am busy making recommendations to the principals to resolve the sticky issues. In fact, I am working on that process right now," he said.

"It is my hope that it would be resolved as soon as possible."

Asked when the nation should expect the referendum on the proposed new constitution, Matinenga said: "All of us are now speculating but it is everyone's hope that it is held early next year."

There has been speculation that hardliners in ZANU-PF are pushing President Mugabe to lobby the Southern African Development Community to allow the country to stage next year's elections under the compromise Lancaster House constitution, citing the deadlock on the COPAC draft.

But Rugare Gumbo, the ZANU-PF spokesperson, said although the party had not deliberated on the possibility of the country holding elections under the present Constitution, his party was getting irritated by the delays in concluding the draft.

He blamed the delays in finalising the draft on the MDC formations.

"We have not discussed it (using the Lancaster House constitution) but I wouldn't rule it out if the opposition continues to be stubborn. We will be left with no alternative but it is not what we want right now.

"I am an optimist and I am sure reason will prevail," said Gumbo.

He dismissed assertions that ZANU-PF contributed to the delays by coming up with 266 amendments at the last minute which they want included in the draft.

"We are not delaying the process. We want to make things clearer. The problem we have is that our opposition members don't study.

"They don't see the implications of just letting things pass when dealing with such an important document," he said.

ZANU-PF spent several hours perusing the COPAC draft before it was submitted to the Second All-Stakeholders' Conference last month.

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