The Herald (Harare)

28 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Govt Sets Record Straight On Polls

ZIMBABWE does not have a constitutional vacuum and President Mugabe will announce election dates at the appropriate time, with or without a new Constitution. Presidential spokesperson Mr George Charamba said the departure of the President for the Far East for his traditional annual leave would not in any way affect the meeting of Principals to discuss the impasse on the draft Constitution.

There had been reports in some sections of the media that President Mugabe had defied a recent Zanu-PF Annual National People's Conference resolution in which he was mandated to announce election dates should there be no new draft Constitution by Christmas.

"Even if the President was in the country, there was no requirement that the principals should meet before Christmas. Whether or not there is progress, it has nothing to do with the President being in the country or not and has nothing to do with the President calling for elections," Mr Charamba said.

He said the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces reserves the right to proclaim election dates premised on the current Constitution since the country had no constitutional vacuum.

This comes as the Cabinet Committee tasked to break the impasse on constitution-making yesterday resolved to refer outstanding matters to the principals after finding common ground on only two of the 30 contentious issues.

Although Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said the committee had made a breakthrough, sources who attended yesterday's meeting said "nothing concrete" came out.

Said Minister Matinenga: "We met and made progress on a lot of issues, but some of them are still outstanding.

"The problem is we have to make a lot of consultations and some of the people who need to be consulted are still on holiday."

Minister Matinenga refused to reveal the issues the seven-member committee had agreed on.

"It is our hope that in two weeks' time consultations will be complete and we may know the way forward."

However, sources in the committee said they had agreed on only two issues and that the principals would determine the way forward.

"We met and as usual there is nothing concrete to talk about because those outstanding issues are still in place.

"In fact, we sought of agreed on two issues and we have resolved to put everything in the hands of the principals who will guide us on what to do. I cannot give you the two issues because the matter is still delicate," said the source.

Another source said there was no political will among some members of the committee.

"It seems some of the people are not committed to see this thing through because they do not want elections to take place early.

"We now do not know when the next meeting is because we have agreed to meet again after reporting to the principals and getting the way forward," said the source.

The committee, chaired by Minister Matinenga, comprises Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Finance Minister Tendai Biti, Regional Integration and International Co-operation Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Copac co-chairpersons Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana (Zanu-PF), Mr Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T) and Mr Edward Mkhosi (MDC).

Cde Mangwana confirmed yesterday's meeting.

"We have met but for the outcome of the meeting talk to the spokesperson (Minister Matinenga)," said Cde Mangwana.

MDC-T spokesperson Mr Mwonzora said: "We did meet and we did work. For anything, talk to (Minister) Matinenga."

MDC could not be reached for comment.

With the 30 contentious issues raised during the Second All Stakeholders' Conference in place, it has become clear that Copac will not produce a refined draft constitution any time soon.

Political analysts said the stalemate might give leeway for President Mugabe to proclaim dates for elections using the current Constitution.

Zanu-PF resolved at its 13th Annual National Peoples Conference in Gweru this month that the constitution-making process should be completed by Christmas, failing which President Mugabe would in terms of the law, dissolve Parliament and proclaim dates for harmonised elections using the current Constitution.

Contentious issues from the Second All Stakeholders' Conference, include devolution, dual citizenship, legislature, executive powers, Land Commission, security sector and judiciary.

Delegates at the Second All Stakeholders' Conference rejected devolution and dual citizenship while the MDC formations are pushing for the inclusion of the two issues.

The parties have not agreed on the executive powers, whether executive authority should be vested in the President only or in the President and Cabinet.

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

There is also no agreement on the security sector, especially on whether the new supreme law should provide for the appointment of the minister responsible for the police service.

Another area of dispute is the judiciary with the parties not disagreeing on whether or not Zimbabwe should 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.

Other areas of contention were the Land Commission and the Attorney-General's Office.

There are also disagreements on whether provincial councils should be called devolved or decentralised and 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.

Zanu-PF has openly declared that it would not support a draft constitution that does not defend, protect and preserve the values of the liberation struggle.

MDC formations have mainly been basing their preferences on "international best practices", while Zanu-PF used the outreach national statistical report that outlines the views of the people.

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