Douglas Mwonzora on the Constitutional reform process

Mwonzora says they will be distributing questionnaires, asking people specific questions related to what sort of constitutional provisions they want. Has the funding been sorted? And what of the squabbles between the MDC and ZANU PF over the way forward?Lance Guma: Maswera sei mhuri ye Zimbabwe and welcome to Rules for our Rulers. My guest this week is the Nyanga North Member of Parliament and also co-chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee leading the constitution making process, Mr Douglas Mwonzora, Va Mwonzora thank you for joining usDouglas Mwonzora: Ah, Thank you very much, makadini zvenyu vatereri, nevamwe vese.Guma: Right, now last week we heard that the constitution making process will start probably this week sending out teams country wide to consult citizens on the proposed new constitution, can you give us an update what’s going to be happening.

Mwonzora: I first want to make a correction about the actual date of the outreach. We announced last week that we were starting the programme actually last week. Last week and part of this week involved relocation into the new offices at number 31 Lawson Avenue in Milton Park in Harare. Our purchase of stationery, preparation of materials for outreach, material for training of the outreach team, making logistical arrangements of transport, accommodation and allowances for the outreach team.

This week did not involve outreach, the next week is not also going to involve outreach. The next week, that is the week beginning the 22nd (November) we are going to embark on the training of the thematic sub-committees and the outreach team because when they go into the country we want them to have the same approach to the people so we are actually doing that training the whole of next week.

This week we could not undertake that training because there is important parliamentary business, among the business is the issue of the Reserve bank of Zimbabwe Act. So the outreach programme is going to start on the 29th of November. That is the actual movement of the teams into the country is going to start on that day. We will carry that outreach programme for a period of about two weeks, up to the 20th of December 2009.

We will have a three week Christmas break and resume the outreach on the 10th of January to the 23rd of February 2010. So that is the programme of the outreach. Today (Monday 16 November 2009) we finalised the meeting with the Management Committee. As the listeners would appreciate, the Management Committee is made up of the co-chairpersons of the Select Committee and the three principal negotiators; that is Honourable Biti for MDC-T, Honourable Chinamasa for Zanu-PF and Honourable Professor Ncube representing MDC-M. So the Management Committee sat today and approved that outreach plan, so we will be getting into the country on the 29th of November.

Guma: We were led to believe the Committee’s work over the past two months stalled due a lack of funding, has that been addressed?

Mwonzora: The issue of funding is actually being addressed. Actually the Minister of Finance did disburse some funds to the Select committee for its administrative work and he has promised that some more money is coming. Today, before our meeting started, we had a major donor whom we discussed with and we are led to believe that funding is going to be made available to the Select Committee.

Guma: So is this funding directly from government coffers or it will be primarily from this particular donor?

Mwonzora: Well the funding is going to come from the government of Zimbabwe as well as from international donors. There’s no revulsion against donors financing the project as long as those donors do not give conditions for their funding, conditions of what to write and what not to write but there’s no revulsion regarding donor funding and the donors who addressed us, addressed Zanu-PF people as well, Honourable Chinamasa was there, Honourable Goche was there and Honourable Mangwana was there and there is no revulsion against donors in the funding of this project.

Guma: OK, now going back to the process itself, I think you were about to explain what happens after the outreach programmes?

Mwonzora: Well after the outreach programmes we are going to then sit down for about a month to draft the constitution. We are going to put together an expert drafting committee which is going to be made up of both national which means Zimbabwean experts and international experts, most from Africa. African academics and notable persons will help us to stitch this document together and produce a draft constitution.

This draft constitution must be tabled before the second All Stakeholders Conference, whose date has now been moved from the 13th of February 2010 to somewhere in March 2010. After the draft constitution has been made and accepted by the All Stakeholders Conference, then it will be subjected to a national referendum and the people of Zimbabwe must have a new constitution by the 1st of August 2010. That target is achievable.

Guma: Now we know this process so far has been dominated by political differences between the parties involved – Zanu-PF and the MDC – have these been ironed out? How would you characterise the environment right now?

Mwonzora: The problems between Zanu-PF and MDC will always be there. There are problems of ideology, there are problems of those who want to enter into office and those who are resisting movement out of the office. These are problems that will always be there. What is important is the ability of Zanu-PF and MDC to temporarily resolve any problem that they have and move forward.

The last problem that Zanu-PF and MDC had was the problem that led to the disengagement of the MDC from the inclusive government, from Cabinet and from the Council of Ministers. That appears to have been resolved now and we see that the government is functioning quite well as of now.

There is an issue which we are addressing – the issue of violence. The violence that is happening in the rural areas, people being forced to support this draft and not that draft and so on and so forth. We are addressing the issues of violence and the three negotiators will be issuing a joint statement in the near future regarding the issue of violence. All of them are agreed at Management Committee level that violence is a reality and needs to be curbed in Zimbabwe so we are actually going to have a special Management Committee meeting to consider ways of curbing violence for the outreach programme.

Guma: Several months ago, Mugabe had told his party that the Kariba Draft should be the basis of the new constitution. Are there still rumblings within those corridors that the Kariba Draft should be the basis of the new constitution?

Mwonzora: Well it’s important to understand the dynamics of the Kariba and our attitude as a Select Committee to Kariba. Our attitude as a Select Committee to Kariba is that we are not out-ruling or overruling the document. We do not discourage people from giving ideas that are contained in the Kariba and those who support the Kariba Draft to propose that draft to us, we are not opposed to that.

What we are opposed to is a political party and a political leader telling Zimbabweans what draft they must accept. So we do not want the Kariba Draft or any other draft for that matter to be imposed on the people of Zimbabwe. The people of Zimbabwe have had enough of imposition so they cannot have the Kariba Draft imposed on them. It is up to each political party to promote its document but it is not permissible for that party to force people into adopting that draft.

Because of the problems surrounding Kariba, our outreach programme is not going to be based on a draft document. We are going to be using what we call ‘talking points’ or a questionnaire that is going to be devised, it has already been finalised but we are just nicely panel beating it, it is going to the best for the outreach. The ‘talking points’ – what do you want in the Executive, what should be the term of office of a president, if you want a president how is he elected, and so on and so forth and people answer that.

Those simple questions when answered by the people of Zimbabwe tell a story of what type of constitution they want. So this outreach programme is not going be about a document it is going to be about issues that have to do with the constitution. The direct answer, the direct answer to the question on whether the Kariba document is going to be used as the basis in this process is no. The Kariba document is not going to be the basis of the outreach. The Kariba document is going to be just one other form or one other base of information to be used by the people of Zimbabwe.

Guma: Now we understand to expedite the process, the three principals of the Global Political Agreement are agreed that the six negotiators of the Unity deal would form the constitution making’s organs Management Committee. Now can you explain this to us because a lot of people didn’t understand exactly what this committee was supposed to do? Just explain this for our listeners.

Mwonzora: Well with the due respect to the Management Committee, which committee I also sit in, it has been misnamed. It’s not actually the management committee in the conventional sense of determining what happens in the Select Committee on a day-to-day basis. This is a policy making body and it is also a body through which political differences that arise during this process can be negotiated and resolved. So it is a conflict resolution body and also a policy body and not management committee in the conventional sense.

The advantage of that committee is that the principals are represented in the structures of the constitution making so it is as if when we are sitting there we are sitting with President Mugabe, or sitting with Prime Minister Tsvangirai or sitting with the Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara. You can make decisions very quickly, political decisions can be made more quickly in the Management Committee.

Previously when we were under parliament, we would, as any problem arose in the Select Committee we would refer that to the presiding officer headed by the Speaker who would refer that to the Committee on Standing Orders and Rules headed by the Speaker again, but this is bigger and if not resolved would then be referred to the principals so there was a lot of bureaucracy.

Now with the Management Committee, we the Select Committee chairpersons can make instant decisions on policy issues so it is important and it is necessary. The Management Committee is not there to substitute the Select Committee because the Select Committee still has to maintain its independence from the merging of the political parties. So there is no basis of fearing this animal called the Management Committee.

Guma: OK. Now Mr Mwonzora, my final question before we end the programme, clearly the civil society groups expressed their opposition to a government or parliament controlled process, has much been done so far to try and appease them and get them on board?

Mwonzora: Well first of all it is important to note that not every member of civic society is against this programme or this process. We had a few members of civic society, notably of course NCA, ZCTU and a faction of ZINASU who are against the programme and the process. What they advocate for is another form of constitution making. It has been tried in other countries and has not succeeded. What is there has been tried in other countries and has succeeded.

But what we have done to accommodate civic society is that we appreciate that civic society plays an important role in constitution making. For that reason, of the outreach teams that are going to be deployed into the country, in each team, 70% of that team will be members of civil society. Of the thematic sub-committees, the people, the 425 people in the thematic sub-committees, 70% are from civic society.

So civic society is dominating this process. Of each thematic sub committee of 25, 17 which is approximately 70% of the people out of 25 are members of civic society. In the Steering Committee which is the new committee created to run the constitution project on a day-to-day basis, we have three co-chair persons representing the major political parties.

We have two members, Professor Hope Sadza and Professor Phinias Mukhurane being academics representing civic society so civic society is represented at the very highest level. But most importantly it constitutes 70% of the outreach team and we would like to believe by extrapolation, would contribute 70% of the ideas that are going to go into the constitution so they are also well represented.

Guma: Well that was Nyanga North Member of Parliament Douglas Mwonzora who is also the co-chair of the parliamentary Select Committee leading the constitution making process. Va Mwonzora, thank you very much for joining us on SW Radio Africa.

Mwonzora: Thank you baba.For feedback e-mail