PM rejects Zanu PF Draft Constitution proposals

HARARE – Zimbabwean Prime Minister and MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai declared a deadlock with Zanu PF on Tuesday over suggested changes to the draft constitution as envoys for South African President Jacob Zuma, the regional point man on Zimbabwe, arrived in the country.

Zanu PF has come up with a number of changes they want included in a long-delayed draft constitution, but it is facing opposition from its ruling coalition partners who are refusing to renegotiate.

\r\n

Tsvangirai told a news conference in Harare: “I want to make it clear that the principals [coalition leaders] don’t have a veto power on the constitution. According to the GPA (Global Political Agreement Articles 6), the constitution process is a parliament-driven process.

\r\n

“The principals in the GPA cannot substitute the sovereign will of the people of Zimbabwe to determine how they should be governed. Let the people of Zimbabwe, through a referendum, be the final arbiters not three individuals.”

\r\n

The GPA, signed on September 15, 2008, commits President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF and the two MDC factions led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Industry Minister Welshman Ncube to a new constitution that will pave way for a free and fair election.

\r\n

But the process, which began with nationwide consultations led by a parliamentary committee, has been bogged down at drafting stage with politics coming to the fore as the three parties squabbled over provisions of the draft constitution.

\r\n

The impasse was only broken – controversially says Zanu PF – after the parties’ six negotiators who led the coalition government talks sat down and came up with a compromise draft which was published on July 17.

\r\n

Although Zanu PF’s negotiators – Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Transport Minister Nicholas Goche – took part in the negotiations, the party says this was a violation of the GPA and demolishes Tsvangirai’s claims that the draft constitution was a product of the people through the parliamentary committee.

\r\n

The two MDC factions endorsed the draft, but Zanu PF’s politburo sat on four occasions during which it amended the draft before handing out copies to its rivals last week.

\r\n

Speaking to reporters at his monthly news conference on Tuesday, Tsvangirai said the proposed new draft from Zanu PF is not “an amendment to the [COPAC] draft but a completely re-written document which is at variance with what the people said.”

\r\n

His party has suggested that the two documents be put to a referendum so that the people can vote on their preferred constitution, but the MDC-T also knows if Zanu PF refuses this option that could kill the whole constitution reform process. The GPA says the draft can only go through to a referendum if all the parties agree.

\r\n

Tsvangirai said: “It is time the people make a decision through a referendum. Political parties should refrain from pretending to speak on behalf of the people when the people reserve the right to speak for themselves through the referendum.

\r\n

“Having looked at the so called proposals from Zanu PF, it is obviously a re-written document a total reversal of anything suggested in the negotiated document.”

\r\n

He said the amendments by Zanu PF were “a slap in the face.”

\r\n

“If Zanu PF was bringing one or two issues, one would say perhaps it is necessary for the sake of building consensus. I don’t know how we can accommodate Zanu PF concerns, but I think their reaction to the draft is totally unprogressive.

\r\n

“For us, in my party, we will not even open up for any negotiations.”

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga yesterday said it was possible to submit both the Copac and Zanu PF-proposed constitutional drafts to a referendum to unlock the current logjam, but warned the move could trigger a violent electioneering mode associated with a proper election.

\r\n

\r\n

Matinenga said yesterday submitting both documents to a constitutional referendum was an option parties to the inclusive government could adopt to break the impasse arising from Zanu PF’s proposed fresh amendments.

\r\n

Zanu PF last week submitted a fresh list of changes which it wants incorporated into the Copac document, but its two coalition government partners, the MDCs, have vowed to disregard the proposed amendments.

“If we have a Copac document and the so-called Zanu PF document or other drafts for people to choose during the referendum, what it means is we are simply going to have an election where people choose what is perceived to be MDCs or Zanu PF,” Matinenga said.

“Such situations are often characterised by political violence and it means we are going to be in election mode for up to 15 months and violence for a long time, and Zimbabweans do not want to see that.”

Matinenga added: “In theory, we can take those two or more drafts for people to vote for during the referendum, but there will be logistical nightmares like the cost element. It is important that people understand all documents put on the table. We are currently having problems to get people understand the Copac document. If we are going to add other variations, it is going to be more difficult.”

Constitutional expert Greg Linington said: “What is simply going to happen is that supposing all the drafts were put before the referendum and people decided to vote for the Copac draft for instance, then Zanu PF can decide to block it in Parliament where it needs two-thirds approval by MPs in the House of Assembly. Since all the drafts are long documents, it will take long for people to read and understand them. It means we are not going anywhere and will have to be forced to stick to the current constitution.”

But Zanu PF constitution technical expert Godwills Masimirembwa insisted the party had simply submitted proposed amendments to the Copac draft.

“What Zanu PF has done is to make amendments to the Copac draft and so that is the only draft that should be sent to the people with amendments. 
Truly speaking, we cannot take more drafts. 

“Political parties must sit on the table and report on what people said during the outreach process. The purpose of putting the draft to political parties was so that they make their contributions and so that is what Zanu PF has done,” Masimirembwa said.

\r\n

\r\n

 

\r\n

But Zanu PF strategist Professor Jonathan Moyo claimed Tsvangirai was declaring a deadlock before negotiating.

\r\n

“It’s exactly seven days after he was given the amended draft, and he agreed he was going to read it, consult his party and come back for a discussion. But they haven’t come back; instead he has used a press conference to make a unilateral declaration of deadlock. How does a negotiation move from an inside discussion to a press conference, and then says ‘let’s go to SADC’? What for?”

\r\n

Moyo, who is also MP for Tsholotsho North and politburo member, said the timing of Tsvangirai’s statement was also “curious”.

\r\n

He said: “He is standing up with a UDD [unilateral declaration of deadlock] on the day that Zuma’s facilitation team is expected in the country.

\r\n

“It is clear this grandstanding is intended for their consumption, but sadly there is nothing to consume because a UDD is not consumable. This idea of his that this issue should go to SADC is nonsensical because GPA processes require GPA parties to engage each other, and there is no alternative to engagement, none whatsoever.”

\r\n

Among other amendments, Zanu PF struck out devolution from the draft; restored presidential powers; made the liberation struggle a pervasive presence in the draft; introduced black empowerment as a constitutional issue; threw out dual citizenship; explicitly banned same-sex marriages; outlawed foreign funding of political parties and dropped a requirement for presidential candidates to name two running mates.

\r\n

All beneficiaries of land reforms will be protected against arbitrary dispossession, and the Zanu PF amendments also qualify fundamental rights on grounds of national security and public interest.

\r\n

Zanu PF also eliminated provisions for the establishment of a Constitutional Court independent from the Supreme Court and blocked a provision which would see the Attorney General’s prosecuting powers handed over to a new body.

\r\n

 

\r\n