26 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Thumbs Up for Copac Campaigns

COPAC campaigns to raise awareness of provisions of the draft Constitution began in most parts of the country yesterday with the body's leadership expressing satisfaction with the public response.

This comes at a time when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has started taking applications from individuals and organisations seeking to observe the referendum on March 16.

The High Court is also expected to determine whether or not it has the jurisdiction to review the President's proclamation of March 16 as the referendum date.

The Copac campaigns are being used to explain the contents of the draft and urge the people to vote "Yes".

Said Copac co-chairperson Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana: "We are satisfied with the responses that we had today (yesterday). Our teams report that there was generally positive responses from members of the public and also that they were conducted in a peaceful manner.

"The only challenge we had is that people want more copies of the draft and we are running around to see how we can address that."

Copac printed 90 000 copies of the draft, 70 000 in English and 20 000 in indigenous languages.

In Harare, meetings were held at Mai Musodzi Hall in Mbare and at Queen Elizabeth's School Hall and were addressed by Zanu-PF's Copac member Cde Flora Buka and her MDC-T counterpart Mr Innocent Gonese.

At Queen Elizabeth, Cde Buka urged people to vote "Yes".

"We have come here not only to explain the Constitution, but to also urge you to vote for the Constitution at the referendum.

"We believe the document that we have is a reflection of what you said during the outreach. For the first time our Constitution will have provisions for the protection of socio-economic rights and that had not been provided for in the Lancaster House Constitution," she said.

Mr Gonese echoed similar sentiments.

"This is a good Constitution that is also good for the status of women. It has provided for the involvement of women in essentially all facets of life unlike what is in the current Constitution," he said.

Some people in Mbare, however, walked out on Mr Gonese.

The meeting later proceeded with Cde Buka explaining that as Copac they were non-partisan.

"As Copac, we are one and not representing any party, that is why you are seeing us moving together," she said.

Copac has also roped in civil society to drum up support for the draft.

In Chinhoyi and Rural Makonde districts, the meeting went on smoothly with scores of people airing their views.

The meetings were held at Cooksey Hall in Chinhoyi and Goldenvale in Alaska.

Copac member and Zvimba South legislator Cde Walter Chidhakwa said the draft recognised the right of people born of parents from the Sadc region to be citizens of the country by birth.

This qualified them to vote in an election, he said.

"Anyone born in the country, for as long as their parents were from a Sadc member-country after 1992 are automatically citizens of this country by birth, which makes them eligible to participate in the country's electoral processes," he said.

In their contribution, people said the process to rationalise their citizenship using the Lancaster House Constitution was cumbersome.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga presided over the Mutare meeting.

"This is a very good Constitution for women in Zimbabwe because they have been looked down upon for a very long time. So we are calling for women to go out in large numbers and vote in support of the draft," said Minister Matinenga.

In attendance were Zanu-PF Central Committee member Mandy Chimene and Zanu-PF Manicaland provincial secretary for administration Cde Kenneth Saruchera and traditional leaders.

In Bulawayo, the campaign had a false start after officials failed to turn up at Killarney Hall and Lockview Primary School.

"There has been no activity here, which is contrary to what was advertised in the media. We have been here since morning and we have not seen anyone," said a resident Mr Kenneth Nyathi.

At Lockview Primary School there was no sign of a meeting going on.

The school head Mr Stephen Lumbida said the Copac team had rescheduled the meeting to Wednesday.

"They alerted me that they will come on Wednesday, but I was surprised when I saw residents and police coming here for the meeting," said Mr Lumbida.

Copac teams' leader for Bulawayo Mr Gift Marunda attributed the failure to logistical challenges.

In Beitbridge, the meeting was held at Zezani Business Centre where Senator Tambudzani Mohadi and Copac spokesperson Mrs Jessie Majome presided over proceedings.

Acting ZEC chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said all applications to observe the referendum from foreign or local organisations would be considered by the Commission's Observer Accreditation Committee.

"According to the electoral law, the committee is chaired by the ZEC chairperson and the deputy chairperson is also a member together with a commissioner.

"Other members will include representatives from the Ministries of Justice and Legal Affairs, Foreign Affairs, Home Affairs mainly the immigration department. This is the committee which looks at all the applications and make recommendations," she said.

The applicants will also include those representing foreign countries and international organisations and foreign eminent persons who would have been invited by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

At the High Court tomorrow, Judge President George Chiweshe is expected to rule on whether the court has jurisdiction to review President Mugabe's proclamation of March 16 as the referendum date.

This follows an application by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku challenging President Mugabe's proclamation of date the referendum.

The NCA argues that the 30-day notice was too short and that the period should be extended by at least two months.

Yesterday, Deputy Attorney General (Civil Division) Advocate Prince Machaya argued that the organisation and its leader were wrong in trying to review President Mugabe's powers.

Adv Machaya raised the issue as a preliminary point and Justice Chiweshe decided to hear the arguments first on the preliminary point before hearing the merits.

In the event that the court rules in favour of the President, the application automatically falls away. But if the objection raised is dismissed the judge will proceed to hear both parties' arguments on the merit.

After hearing the preliminary arguments from both parties, Justice Chiweshe reserved ruling for tomorrow.

Adv Machaya argued that the order being sought was incompetent considering that the issue of a proclamation was justiciable.

However, Mr Aleck Muchadehama assisted by Prof Madhuku and Mr Andrew Makoni opposed the objection arguing that case law proved that all actions by the President were reviewable.

"Any exercise of the powers by the President is reviewable by the court. Unless the court's jurisdiction is specifically ousted, the court has jurisdiction to review the President's decision," said Mr Muchadehama.

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