17 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Principals Approve Draft Constitution

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

The principals in the unity government have announced they have reached agreement on the draft of the constitution presented to them by the cabinet committee on Thursday, paving the way for some progress towards a referendum.

Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara and MDC President Welshman Ncube all addressed journalists after meeting with the full COPAC management committee.

The cabinet appointed committee had met twice on Wednesday and ironed out the remaining contentious issues. The resulting solutions were presented to the principals in Thursday's meeting and they agreed to adopt the new version.

"We are glad to say that we have now come to the conclusion of the exercise and all parties are agreed. Sure there will be some T's to cross and I's to dot but we are generally agreed and the finalization of the draft has now been made," Mugabe told reporters.

He added that after the finalisation of the actual draft constitution the principals would announce the way forward, including a date for the referendum and a roadmap for elections.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said: "We have reached a defining moment for the country. I am sure that the people's patience has been tested severely, that they have legitimate expectations out of this process. I am glad to say this concludes a long journey that we have travelled to arrive at this national process."

But according to Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga, this draft agreed to by the principals still has to be presented to the standing committees of the political parties, ZANU PF's politburo and to the full COPAC parliamentary committee, before a final draft goes to a referendum.

Matinenga insists this is just a formality, but there remain concerns that ZANU PF will once again seize the opportunity and throw a spanners into the works and demand further changes, as they did last year after agreement had been reached by the negotiators.

Political commentator Wilbert Mukori said ZANU PF will most likely cause further delays, in order to minimize the amount of time left for other more important reforms that were agreed to in the GPA.

Mukori said this agreement by the principals weakens SADC's position, because the regional grouping can now be accused of blocking progress by the unity government if they interfere with this process and demand more GPA reforms.

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