No to Parliament-driven constitution: ZCTU

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s labour movement on Tuesday called for an independent commission to lead the drafting of a new constitution for the country, rejecting plans by the government for Parliament to spearhead the writing of the governance charter.\r\n

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU) said it could not trust politicians with the writing of the new constitution and vowed to mobilise workers to reject any proposed new constitution drafted by Parliament in a referendum scheduled for next year.

“We say no to a Parliament-driven constitution. We will campaign for a “no vote” against that (proposed new) constitution,” ZCTU president Lovemore Matombo told journalists in Harare.

The ZCTU is the latest major civic society grouping to oppose plans by the power-sharing government of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai to use Parliament to draft a new constitution for Zimbabwe.

The country’s largest constitutional lobby group, National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and the Zimbabwe National Students Union have all spoken against the government’s constitution reform process.

The NCA that nine years ago successfully mobilised for the rejection of a proposed a draft constitution sponsored by President Robert Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party says it has already begun mobilising Zimbabweans to reject any draft constitution produced by the unity government.

The ZCTU and the NCA worked with then opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai and his Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party to defeat the government draft constitution in 2000.

The MDC that later split into two formations is now part of the unity government with Mugabe’s ZANU PF and backs the government-led constitutional reform process.

Matombo said the ZCTU – which gave birth to the MDC – met Tsvangirai last week but the Prime Minister told the union he would take their demand for an a independent constitutional commission to Cabinet.

“We had a meeting with the Prime Minister on Wednesday (last week) and we said the constitution must be headed by an independent organisation. He said they are going to discuss it in Cabinet,” the ZCTU leader said.

Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo has appointed a 25-member committee of legislators drawn from ZANU PF and the two formations of the MDC that will oversee the drafting of the country’s new constitution.

Moyo, from the Tsvangirai-led MDC formation, said the committee would drive the writing of the new constitution over the next 18 months as outlined under a power-sharing agreement signed by Zimbabwe’s three main political parties last year.

The Speaker said apart from lawmakers, more people drawn from business, students, rights groups, churches, media, women’s groups, labour and farmers among others shall be tasked to assist the parliamentary select committee that will however have final say in the drafting of the new constitution.

Moyo said the draft constitution would be put before the electorate in a referendum expected in July next year and if approved by Zimbabweans will then be brought before Parliament for enactment.

Once a new constitution is in place, the power-sharing government is expected to then call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections.

Zimbabwe is currently governed under the 1979 Constitution agreed at the Lancaster House talks in London.

The constitution has been amended 19 times since the country’s independence in 1980 and critics say the changes have only helped to entrench Mugabe and ZANU PF’s stranglehold on power. – ZimOnline