31 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Principals Face Revolt

PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai have sparked outrage following a constitutional deal that retains presidential powers and creates a bloated Parliament, as the governing parties lost a golden chance of crafting a lasting, timeless and durable document to replace the present compromise Lancaster House Constitution.

The compromise deal has created friction within their respective parties, upsetting the party hardliners who have vowed that the exercise would be derailed, with dissenting ZANU-PF members being whipped into line at a meeting last week held to endorse the document.

Sources this week said some ZANU-PF members who had sought to block the new constitution were contemplating supporting Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn leader Simba Makoni in the forthcoming elections whose views resonate with their adopted positions.

Makoni, however, told The Financial Gazette this week that no ZANU-PF member had approached him with such an offer.

ZANU-PF and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations agreed on the new constitution a fortnight ago, concluding the process after more than three years of haggling. The new constitution was supposed to have been concluded in 18 months.

ZANU-PF had originally proposed 266 amendments to the Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) draft constitution, but had to climb down on some issues they were opposed to such as the establishment of the office of the Prosecutor General, with the Attorney General's functions being restricted to legal counsel.

It also made a volte face on its demands for the scrapping of the constitutional court and a National Prosecuting Authority as well as time limits for service chiefs such as the director of intelligence who is now restricted to two terms.

On the other hand, some within the MDC formations feel that their leaders - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube - sold out by agreeing to some provisions not in line with the people's views.

Critical issues such as devolution, intended to avoid the centralisation of power, were skirted with cosmetic changes being introduced that saw provincial governors being substituted with provincial chairpersons.

In an interview this week, Justice for Agriculture chief executive, John Worsley-Worswick, said the new constitution with an independent land commission, not the current one that falls under the executive.

He added that the futility of placing such an important exercise under government was demonstrated by the fact that even though the Global Political Agreement that resulted in the consummation of the inclusive government in February 2009 stipulated that the parties would carry out a land audit, nothing materialised.

"What is needed is an independent land commission. No one disputes the fact that we need land reform; there was an imbalance. There must be correct beneficiaries and there is no need for political favouritism and selective application of the law," said Worswick.

He added that the issue was so important to the country as Zimbabwe has an agricultural based economy.

While tourism and mining are important, the two sectors are not capable of employing large numbers of workers like agriculture which also guarantees food security.

According to the Matabeleland Civil Society Forum (MCSF), the agreed constitution waters down the issue of devolution relative to people in those regions wanted.

"People wanted elected provincial governors and provinces to be able to prepare their own budget. In the current draft, provincial bodies would not have teeth to make laws at provincial level,'" said the MCSF.

The forum added that it would be meeting COPAC co-chairpersons Paul Mangwana, Douglas Mwonzora and Edward Mkhosi on Friday to unpack the draft and chart the way forward. The organisation, however, said the draft has some progressive elements, such as protection of women's rights.

MDC 99 president, Job Sikhala, said it was astonishing that the parties could push for a bloated Parliament with nearly 400 members from both the lower and upper house when this week Finance Minister Tendai Biti indicated that after paying civil servants salaries last month, government was left with US$217 in its account.

"They have retained presidential powers to create an imperial president just as was the case with constitutional amendment No.17. They have regurgitated that with minor amendments. The president must not have the power to appoint all senior office bearers. The constitution also leaves room for him to declare war wily nilly," said Sikhala.

"What I am saying is ZANU-PF has run away with the people's views. It's astonishing how they can create such a bloated Parliament when Biti has revealed that government had an account balance of US$217 million."

Before the constitution was formulated, the MDC-T had sought to push for a clause outlawing individuals who would have already served two consecutive presidential terms, a development that would have affected President Mugabe. However, the current draft only contains two five-year presidential term limits.

In a statement the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) said some of the defects in the draft constitution were a result of the way the process was undertaken and vowed to continue to press for a No vote.

The statement said the movement's leadership would announce in due course and update the nation on their programme of action.

"We remain unshaken and still insist that the COPAC process was illegitimate, undemocratic and not people driven. However, we urge our structures to remain steadfast, and continue the mobilisation activities currently underway in the country's provinces until the dream of a truly democratic, people- driven constitution is achieved," said the NCA.

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