20 December 2012

Zimbabwe: 30 Hurdles Scuttle New COPAC Draft

COPAC will not produce a refined draft Constitution any time soon as it emerged yesterday that there are 30 contentious issues, giving leeway for President Mugabe to proclaim dates for general elections using the current Constitution.

Zanu-PF resolved at its 13th Annual National People's Conference in Gweru recently that Constitution-making should be completed by Christmas, failure of which President Mugabe would in terms of the law, dissolve Parliament and proclaim dates for general elections using the current Constitution.

Copac co-chairperson Cde Munyaradzi Mangwana (Zanu-PF) said in an interview yesterday that the impasse would result in election dates being announced without the new Constitution.

"My party has stated that if there is no draft by Christmas time, then President Mugabe would proclaim the dates for elections.

"I stand guided by my party and will never work outside that," he said.

A Cabinet committee set up to break the impasse failed to meet for the third time this week owing to the absence of MDC-T representatives.

Cde Mangwana said there were 30 sticky issues from the Second All Stakeholders' Conference still to be resolved.

MDC-T secretary-general Mr Tendai Biti concurred with Cde Mangwana.

This is contrary to reports in some sections of the media that there were only two contentious issues, devolution of power and the national prosecuting authority.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga, who chairs the Cabinet committee, said they would probably meet next Monday to iron out the sticky issues.

"We are failing to raise a quorum every time. It's either representatives from one of the political parties would be absent.

"We failed to meet on three occasions this week and we might meet next Monday, but it will be difficult to meet set timelines."

Apart from Cde Mangwana, Mr Biti and Minister Matinenga, the Cabinet committee also comprises Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Copac co-chairpersons Mr Douglas Mwonzora and Mr Edward Mkhosi.

Cde Mangwana accused MDC-T of delaying the completion of the Constitution-making process.

"There are 30 sticky issues, not two as touted by other people and the MDC-T has failed attend the meetings aimed at resolving those issues.

"They told us that they did not have the mandate of their party and then the other day they told us that Biti was in the United Kingdom and yesterday they told us that they have got a national executive meeting."

Cde Mangwana said the contentious issues included devolution, dual citizenship, legislature, executive powers, Land Commission, security sector and judiciary.

"Delegates at the Second All Stakeholders' Conference were clear that they want what is in the current Citizenship Act where there is no dual citizenship, but the MDC-T does not want that," he said.

"On executive powers, we have not resolved whether the executive authority should be vested in the President only or in the President and Cabinet.

"There is no agreement on whether or not the President should seek approval of Parliament when declaring war.

"As Zanu-PF, we are saying the President should declare war and inform Parliament."

Cde Mangwana said on the security sector, MDC-T did not want a General to be transferred from one defence arm to another.

There is also no common ground on whether the Constitution should provide for the appointment of the Minister responsible for the police service, he said.

Cde Mangwana said another area of dispute was the judiciary.

"We disagree on whether we shall have a separate Constitutional Court or the Supreme Court should transfer itself into a Constitutional Court when there are constitutional issues to deal with.

"There are differences on the legislature as to whether or not the Clerk of Parliament should preside over election of the Speaker of Parliament or the President of the Senate."

Cde Mangwana said other areas of contention were the Land Commission and the Attorney-General's Office.

"We want the Land Commission removed and the other parties want it to stay. We have differences on whether to retain the AG as is in the current Constitution or to separate the offices so that the Attorney-General becomes the advisor to Government and the National Prosecuting Authority assumes the prosecution function."

Cde Mangwana said there were disagreements on whether provincial councils should be called devolved or decentralised.

"We are also disagreeing on whether or not the provincial governors must be indirectly elected or appointed by the President," he said.

Other areas of contention, Cde Mangwana said, were on whether the Constitution should provide for the appointment of the Minister responsible for civil service.

"We should agree on whether or not the Clerk of Parliament, chief executive officers or heads of statutory bodies must have term limits," he said.

"Another area is whether or not in interpreting the law, judges should be guided by the ideals of the liberation struggle."

Cde Mangwana said Zanu-PF would never support a draft constitution that does not defend, protect and preserve the values of the liberation struggle.

"A draft should be produced, yes, but not a draft that compromises the ideals of the liberation struggle," he said.

Cde Chinamasa supported what Cde Mangwana said.

Mr Biti said there were "few and insignificant changes" to the initial Copac draft.

"There is total disagreement on devolution, running mates, independent prosecuting authority, dual citizenship, Land Commission, among others issues," he said.

"We have agreed that where there is disagreement from what came from the Second Stakeholders Conference, the July 18 Copac draft remain alive."

Mr Biti said if the political parties failed to agree on the contentious issues, Sadc would remain seized with the matter Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga declined comment.

Other contentious issues include whether or not the Constitution should provide for the appointment of a Minister of Intelligence Services and whether or not the title should be Correctional Service or Prison and Correctional Services.

The parties are also disagreeing on whether or not traditional leaders should be members of political parties, whether or not an Act of Parliament should provide for National Youth Service and whether or not to separate empowerment and employment creation from development with the two being stand-alone clauses.

The parties are also haggling over how a successor would be chosen in case of incapacitation of the President.

The Constitution-making process that was expected to take about 18 months has taken over three years because of bickering among the political parties.

The MDC formations endorsed the draft in its entirety, but Zanu-PF proposed amendments that were taken to the second all stakeholders conference.

The revolutionary party argued that the draft had deviated from people's views gathered during the outreach programme.

MDC formations have mainly been basing their preferences on "international best practices", while Zanu-PF used the outreach national report that outlines the number of times an issue was raised by the people.

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