16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Principals Carry Day On New Constitution

PRINCIPALS to the Global Political Agreement have taken over the constitution-making process from the Parliamentary Constitutional Select Committee (COPAC) in order to clear the hurdles threatening to further delay polls.

The process to draft a new charter for Zimbabwe has been bogged down for months by disagreements between ZANU-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations over contentious clauses to do with security sector reforms, changes to the Attorney General's Office, the issue of homosexuality and demands for devolution of power among others.

COPAC has previously missed numerous deadlines to conclude the process, forcing the principals to intervene by appointing a special Cabinet committee to tie the loose ends.

The special Cabinet committee, chaired by Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga, met this week but still failed to find common ground.

Highly-placed sources said the principals were now directly involved in the constitution-making exercise following failure by the Cabinet committee to wrap up the process.

President Robert Mugabe has previously stated that the principals would take over the process, but Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had denied this.

Despite the premier's denials, the MDC-T leader has been complicit in usurping the role of COPAC, leaving Welshman Ncube, a constitutional law expert and MDC leader to oppose ZANU-PF alone on many fronts.

This week, Ncube was sidelined from a principals meeting held on Monday despite a resolution passed last year by the Southern African Development Community recognising him as a principal ahead of Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara whom the incumbent prefers as he has occasionally been sympathetic to the ZANU-PF leader's cause.

President Mugabe, who is also a lawyer, is comfortable with dealing directly with Prime Minister Tsvangirai whom he can easily outwit due to his alleged poor educational background.

In a statement, the MDC said there is a deliberate ploy to shut out Ncube from constitutional matters as he is the only voice of legal reason and refuses to be arm twisted into unacceptable compromises around critical areas.

"He is the only leader who has stood firm against ZANU-PF's endless attempts to snatch control of the constitution-making process and referendum, unlike some and for that he is being muzzled," said the MDC.

On Tuesday, COPAC co-chairperson, Edward Mkhosi said the process was now being handled by the executive and not the parliamentary committee, an indication that his team has completely lost control over the matter.

"Matinenga is the spokesperson as the matter is at present being handled by the principals. As you know it's not COPAC but the Cabinet committee that is discussing," said Mkhosi.

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