4 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Holidaying Principals Drag Constitution Talks

THE principals' annual leave is dragging out the on-going delicate draft constitution negotiations as the negotiators have to constantly consult their parties and principals on every contentious issue before making any commitments to the draft.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga confirmed negotiations, which missed the Christmas deadline, were still a further two weeks from completion.

The committee worked right through the festive season, but failed to break the current impasse.

Matinenga chairs the seven-member committee that is trying to reconcile the three parties' positions after an inconclusive Second All-Stakeholders' Conference held in October last year.

Other members of the committee are Global Political Agreement (GPA) negotiators Patrick Chinamasa (Zanu PF), Tendai Biti (MDC-T) and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC), Copac co-chairpersons Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana (Zanu PF) Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T) and Edward Mkhosi (MDC).

"There won't be any significant developments to report in the next two weeks as we are giving the parties sufficient time to consult on the sticky issues," Matinenga said.However, he was quick to underplay the absence of the principals who are on a month-long vacation saying there is a way to get to them.

"Mechanisms have been put in place to reach them even if they are on vacation," he said.

President Robert Mugabe is in the Far East and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is holidaying in Europe.

The draft constitution negotiations have been bogged down by four main issues raised by Zanu PF, mainly the presidential powers, splitting of the Attorney-General's Office into two -- legal advisor role and establishing a National Prosecuting Authority - decentralisation as opposed to devolution and opposition to dual citizenship as currently contained in the draft.

Mangwana refused to divulge the extent of progress on the negotiations when contacted for comment on Wednesday.

"We are still working on it, but for more information get in touch with minister Matinenga," Mangwana said.

Mwonzora was not available for comment.

Failure to agree on the draft constitution remains one of the major impediments to an early election as Sadc has insisted the country should only hold elections after a constitutional referendum and under a new governing charter as agreed in the 2008 GPA.

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