‘New Zim constitution by December 2010’

HARARE – Zimbabwe’s Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga on Wednesday said the country would by this time next year have a new and democratic constitution.\r\n

“If we cannot have a new constitution now then we can never have it,” Matinenga told a meeting organized by the country’s civic groups to discuss the constitution making process.

“I can tell you that by this time next year we will be celebrating a new constitution,” he said.

Matinenga told the meeting that the violation of people’s rights that currently prevails in the country will be a thing of the past, saying this could only be stopped through the crafting of a democratic and people-driven constitution.

“This is not the Zimbabwe we want yet. There is selective arrest and prosecution of citizens but this is not an issue that we can leave to the security agents, all Zimbabweans must make sure that this comes to an end by participating in the making of a new constitution,” he said.

Asked how the current wave of arrests can be ended, Matinenga said; “The (ongoing) second round of political talks by political party negotiators are to get to a stage where these issues shall be dealt with and make sure that we are going to have relative peace and equality before the law.”

Despite Matinenga’s optimism, Zimbabwe’s constitution making process has stalled on several occasions due to a myriad of problems starting with an ill-fated all stakeholders constitutional conference which was disrupted by President Robert Mugabe’s supporters early this year.

It was later successfully held but only a few of resolutions passed at the conference have been implemented owing to a variety of problems, chief among them a shortage of funds to pay for the constitution making exercise.

For example, a special parliamentary committee set up to lead the process never had proper funding until recently when the government and donors chipped in with funds.

According to a time table set under last year’s power-sharing pact or Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed by the country’s three main political parties, the constitutional reform exercise should have now been at the public consultation stage, with outreach teams touring the country to gather the views and ideas of citizens that they want included in the new governance charter.

The committee has however since postponed the deployment of outreach teams to next year.

One of the three co-chairpersons of the special parliamentary committee told ZimOnline yesterday that they would rather have the process delayed than producing a shoddy document.

“We would rather delay the process because we don’t want to repeat the scenes of the All Stakeholders Conference which were caused by our poor organisation,” said Paul Mangwana, who represents Mugabe’s ZANU PF party on the committee.

In addition to funding shortages, sharp differences have also emerged between the political parties over the writing of the new constitution that threaten to derail the reform process.

ZANU PF has said any new constitution should be based on a draft constitution secretly authored by the political parties on Lake Kariba and known as the Kariba Draft.

However, civic organisations are opposed to it, saying the document leaves largely untouched the wide-sweeping powers that Mugabe continues to enjoy even after formation of a power-sharing government with Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara.

Under the GPA – the basis of the February unity government – the country is supposed to have a new and democratic constitution in the next two years. Once the constitution is in place, the power-sharing government is expected to call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections

Zimbabweans hope a new constitution will guarantee basic freedoms, strengthen Parliament and limit the president’s immense powers. – ZimOnline