11 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Copac Committee Fails to Meet

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

The Cabinet Committee charged with ironing out contentious issues in the Constitution-making process failed to meet yesterday as a key MDC-T official is away attending to personal business in North America.

The committee given the responsibility by the principals to break the constitutional deadlock was expected to meet yesterday to consider proposals made by the Copac co-chairpersons and resolve the remaining outstanding issues. However, MDC-T secretary general and Finance Minister Tendai Biti is in Canada on personal business.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga yesterday said the process could not go ahead as Minister Biti was out of Zimbabwe.

"We were supposed to meet today (yesterday) but there is no meeting because Minister Biti is not in the country," he said.

"I don't know the reasons for his visit but it is our hope that we will meet as soon as he comes back in the country."

The seven-member committee chaired by Minister Matinenga includes Justice and Legal Affairs Minister Patrick Chinamasa, Regional Co-operation and Integration Minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Minister Biti and Copac co-chairpersons Cde Paul Mangwana (Zanu-PF), Mr Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T) and Mr Edward Mkhosi (MDC). Minister Matinenga said he was not aware when Minister Biti would be back.

Minister Chinamasa said the minister's absence would further delay the completion of the drafting of the country's new law.

"There is no meeting to talk of because we heard that Biti is out of the country," he said.

"For the committee to meet all members should be present and faced with such a scenario there is nothing we can say except to say his absence has further delayed the conclusion of the process."

Sources yesterday said Minister Biti's trip was meant to woo Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to come and vote in this year's harmonised elections.

The electoral law states that people who have been out of Zimbabwe for more than 12 months lose the right to vote but can only vote if they re-register as voters.

Copac co-chairpersons have reportedly come out with a strategy to deal with some of the outstanding issues stalling the constitution-making process, raising hope that there could be a breakthrough soon if the Cabinet committee endorses the proposals.

The co-chairs have agreed on devolution, national prosecuting authority, executive authority, national peace and reconciliation.

They, however, failed to find common ground on the issue of running mates.

The proposals are not binding unless endorsed by the Cabinet Committee.

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 practice", 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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