15 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Copac Negotiations Hit Stumbling Block - Again

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

Despite a hopeful breakthrough in the COPAC talks to finalize the drafting of a new constitution, negotiations by a cabinet committee on Tuesday ended without a deal.

The cabinet committee was expected to ratify proposals recommended by the three COPAC co-chairmen, who last week reported progress from their talks to overcome differences holding up the finalization of the country's new charter.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spokesman and COPAC co-chair, told SW Radio Africa the latest talks to remove the one remaining obstacle to the process proved elusive, after ZANU PF brought back issues already agreed to by the co-chairmen.

It was assumed the meeting on Tuesday would tentatively ratify the four issues the co-chairs thrashed out in the last two weeks. The co-chairs met on four occasions during the festive season and provisionally managed to iron out everything, with the exception of the issue of running mates.

During their meetings the co-chairs had bridged the differences on chapters dealing with the devolution of power, national prosecuting authority, peace and reconciliation commission and land committee.

'We went into today's (Tuesday) meeting specifically to deal with the one remaining issue of running mates but for some strange reason Patrick Chinamasa decided to re-open the other issues that we dealt with weeks ago,' Mwonzora said. Chinamasa is the chief negotiator representing the former ruling ZANU PF party.

'Instead of trying to make progress, Chinamasa was only filibustering, simply making empty arguments that wouldn't stop. From his intransigency it was clear ZANU PF do not want a new constitution,' a furious Mwonzora claimed.

The Nyanga North MP explained that the cabinet committee will meet again on Wednesday as suggested by the principals to try and resolve the contentious issues. Following the principals' meeting on Monday, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said they gave the committee a Wednesday deadline and beyond that, their mandate will be over, as the principals will be taking over the process.

'Yes we are meeting again tomorrow (Wednesday) but we don't expect any different attitude from Chinamasa. This committee is not serious...it's not producing results,' he said.

Mwonzora confirmed the COPAC chairs will send their resolutions, adopted from their meetings during the festive season, to the principals on Wednesday.

The cabinet committee is expected to send theirs. Chairman Eric Matinenga, the Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, will explain in detail the issues still be resolved.

Mwonzora denied reports that the GPA parties were ready to abandon the process and instead work to amend the Lancaster House constitution and come up with Amendment 20, which incorporates all the agreed issues from the COPAC draft.

'That is absolute rubbish, we don't accept amendment 20. The people of Zimbabwe said they wanted a new constitution and that is what they will get, despite delaying tactics by ZANU PF,' he added.

Blessing Vava, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) spokesman, said COPAC should admit that they've failed to produce a constitution.

'They should admit their failure and instead of wasting time, government should now make efforts to produce reforms that can endure a free and fair election.

'It's a shame they're still trying to resuscitate a process long declared dead. These parties have taken the people of Zimbabwe for granted, all they want now are reforms that would allow the country to have violent free election and deal with the constitution later,' Vava said.

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