Douglas Mwonzora on Question Time
Following reports of a stalemate in the constitution making exercise Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) co-chair Douglas Mwonzora is the guest on Question Time.
He joins SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma to answer questions sent in by listeners on a variety issues, including whether it was true the MDC had boycotted the process. Is there a Plan B if people reject the draft constitution during a referendum? Have the views of the Diaspora been ignored?
Interview broadcast 13 May 2011
Lance Guma: Good evening Zimbabwe and thank you for joining me on Question Time this week. This is the rescheduled edition of the programme which was meant to be broadcast this Wednesday but because of unforeseen circumstances we’ve rescheduled it to Friday.
My guest is the COPAC co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora joining us to share information on the constitution making process and any other questions that our listeners have brought in to be asked. Mr. Mwonzora thank you for joining us.
Douglas Mwonzora: Thank you very much, I hope I find you well, I hope everyone is OK.
Guma: We start off with Wilson Box whose question is – so far, what has been the impact of the constitution making process for ordinary Zimbabweans?
Mwonzora: Thank you very much, I want to thank Wilson for asking that important question. The constitution making process is being carried on in terms of Article Six of the Global Political Agreement. In other words it is a deliverable of the Global Political Agreement.
In terms of that Agreement, we are supposed to come up with a people driven constitution. Our people will benefit a lot from a constitution that reflects what they want; how they want to be governed, the tenure of office of their rulers, our people ultimately benefit.
We have carried this process in a very difficult environment and as I speak we are almost close to drafting a new constitution for the people of Zimbabwe. But the COPAC process helped the ordinary Zimbabwean express himself; those who went to the meetings were able to speak, spoke their mind and we captured that and we will consider this when we are writing the constitution.
But importantly, the COPAC exercise is able to blend ZANU PF people, MDC people, MDC-T people together and they were able to carry out a national programme together. To that end, it achieved a lot in the field of national healing.
We can see leaders who speak better together who previously did not, so COPAC helped in the achievement of national healing besides taking concrete steps towards bringing a truly people driven democratic constitution for our people.
So the benefit to the ordinary Zimbabwean, just to answer Wilson in short, are both short term and long term. Short term we have been able to express ourselves; long term we will have a constitution that will hopefully take away the misery that is always inflicted by leaders who don’t know when it is time to go.
Guma: Now we’ve been hearing reports that the COPAC process has faced a stalemate over whether to use what is known as the quantitative process or the qualitative process. I have a follow-up question from Wilson who wants to know the difference between the two.
Mwonzora: Well the difference between a quantitative process and a qualitative process is that the quantitative process simply looks at the dry facts, the dry figures and statistics to come to a conclusion on what the people said.
For example a quantitative process would look at the number of meetings where a thing was said. The more numbers of the meeting where a thing was repeated, the more important it is – that’s the quantitative process – it looks at figures, it looks at statistics to come to a fundamental conclusion.
A qualitative process looks at more, it looks beyond mere facts and figures. It looks at the atmosphere under which things were said. Was there intimidation? Was there violence? Was the atmosphere free?
It also looks at the peculiarities of the meeting – how much, how many people attended, how many were women, how many were youth, how many were people living with a disability. In this way, especially if we confined ourselves to the atmosphere of the meeting, it informed us of the way we must put to a thing.
For example in simple terms a thing said under gun point has less weight than a thing which is said in freedom, therefore all we are saying the quantitative process, we will need to add unfair results. For example during the outreach meetings because of the issues of convenience and geography, we had three meetings per ward in rural areas and one meeting per ward in urban areas.
Under the quantitative approach we will then say there was higher frequency in the rural areas in the sense that you had more meetings and therefore a thing was said more in rural areas than urban areas. What that would mean in short is that the urban vote, the urban voices are less than the rural voices. That can never lead to justice. A quantitative approach will lead to injustice.
A qualitative approach on the other hand looks at that unfairness and it also looks at the circumstances under which people said things. It also goes beyond simple mathematics to look at the importance of an issue, the context under which it is said.
You can have a very, very stupid thing repeated over and over again, for an example, we should kill journalists who don’t support the government, it was being said by some people, many, many, many times, under the quantitative approach you don’t even consider that answer, you simply look at how many times it was said to determine its importance. That’s why we were objecting to the quantitative approach.
Guma: So what is the agreement to break this stalemate? What have you agreed?
Mwonzora: We have agreed that there will be, we have made six, we have reached an agreement with six fundamentals. Firstly that we are going to collapse all the meeting places in wards to one, so where we were having three meetings, we collapse that into one so it is regarded as one meeting.
That way we cure the unfairness of having more meetings in rural areas than in urban areas. We have also agreed that we are going to look at the qualitative attributes like gender, youth, disability, the atmosphere of the meeting. That way we are able to tell the circumstances under which things were said.
In other words we are going to look at what was said and the atmosphere under which it was said. We have also agreed that the data from rural areas and the urban areas be analysed differently and also we’ve agreed that the frequency or preponderance of a thing is not the determinate of its importance.
We have also agreed that the two methods, the quantitative and the qualitative are going to be used without one method taking precedence over another. I want to say that we have signed an agreement as co-chairpersons, Honourable Mangwana, Honourable Mkhosi and myself and we have ordered our teams to go back to work.
Guma: The next question for you Mr Mwonzora comes from Goodman Gudu who says it is believed that ZANU PF was able to manage grassroots by going down there to campaign therefore its sentiments are backed by numbers which is the quantitative process. Can we say that the MDC failed to manage grassroots in order to influence the outcome?
Mwonzora: Certainly not. Under the quantitative approach we are not looking at the number of people who said a thing; we are looking at the number of times or meetings at which that thing was said. Therefore the fact that one party went and bussed a lot of people is neither here nor there; it really doesn’t affect it so theoretically what was said was by one person each at the meetings will still have the same frequency as what was said by a hundred people.
But let me say that the ZANU PF did not mobilise its people well. The evidence that we have is that a lot of people were forced to the meeting where they were told to keep quiet while five or six people contributed, so you get the meeting of two thousand people with only five contributors; that is not mass mobilisation.
Mobilisation is where you have people schooled in the importance of that submission but not people who are simply forced to cram a submission and repeat it. So under the qualitative approach we are looking at the atmosphere. If the people were intimidated into saying something then that something must not be there surely but where people were free and expressed themselves then that must be said.
I am quite satisfied that the MDC mobilised well for each position in the sense that it allowed people to speak voluntarily without being coerced. So there is no advantage Gudu, there is no advantage here for ZANU PF. We have taken that out of two thousand people you gave, two or three contributed.
Guma: Next question comes from Roderick Fayayo who says from the COPAC perspective and in line with what the ZANU PF politburo said this Wednesday, is there any possibility of elections this year?
Mwonzora: I’m happy to hear from my very good friend Fayayo and I hope he’s OK in the City of Kings. Well it’s the, we look at the time that, the time line set by COPAC, we will complete the constitution process hopefully by the 30th of September. Now after you have a constitution, elections can’t take place immediately because that constitution has to take root, has to take effect.
The constitution will provide for certain offices, it will provide for certain commissions. You will have to set those commissions, you have to dismantle the other apparatus or the institutions set up under the previous institution and build new ones. So we have the adoption of a constitution is not simply the adoption of a piece of paper. It is the adoption of the practice in that piece of paper.
You have to erect bodies provided in terms of the constitution; you have to allow a transition where the constitution takes root. So it is not possible to have elections after September this year because you need about a six month period for the constitution to really take root. So it is not possible.
Now, I’ve spoken from a COPAC point of view, from an MDC point of view, for the election to take place in this country, there must be a clear road map which is set out in terms of the Global Political Agreement. There must be security sector reforms, you must complete that constitution. For the past two years, there has not been any meaningful reform of the security sector so that must happen before elections can be held.
The next elections that must be held are not simply elections, they must be free and fair elections, they must conform to international standards and I don’t see how that can be resolved now. We still have in this country selective application of the law, we still have ZANU PF committing acts of rape, murder, mayhem with impunity without being brought to book.
You cannot have elections under those circumstances. So it is impossible Roderick to have elections this year both from the MDC point of view or from the COPAC point of view.
Guma: Our next question is from Dewa Mavhinga; he says please ask Mwonzora if there is a Plan B for government and MDC as he is the spokesperson there too, in the event of a ‘no’ vote at the referendum stage given the chaos and disagreements characterising the process?
Mwonzora: Well let me answer my brother Mavhinga there, he is a very, very good lawyer, he’s a very, very good lawyer indeed, in two ways. Firstly, MDC in the inclusive government is not acting in bad faith; it is negotiating in good faith. That means it is pursuing the constitution agenda in good faith.
Once you are negotiating in good faith, you don’t have a Plan B so we are trying our best and putting 150% of our efforts to make sure that the current constitution process bears fruit and we are negotiating in good faith. But if the ZANU PF makes it impossible for the constitution to be written then of course the MDC will go it alone once it is in power; it will have to make a constitution, it will have to make a process for a constitution to be drafted in a people driven manner.
That is if everything fails, if we do not have a constitution but let me say that the disagreements that are happening in COPAC actually are a sign that we are going to have a ‘yes vote in this country. What we are concentrating on doing is that we are concentrating on resolving the differences so that from each stage we proceed with consensus, we proceed by consensus so that we do not sow the seeds of a ‘no’ vote.
So people must not lose heart by what is happening; the disagreements are healthy. As you can notice from what I have read to you about the agreement today, you can see that there is a quantitative movement forward in this process.
The MDC is happy, ZANU PF is happy, Mutambara MDC is happy, we just hope that the supporters once they understand that this agreement, the essence of the agreement are going to be happy. So it is important at this stage to prepare for a ‘yes’ vote. You get a ‘yes’ vote by making sure that you iron out the differences as they occur at this very early stage.
Guma: Now Mr Mwonzora, Chamu in Durban in South Africa wants to know why the issue if the Diaspora vote and dual citizenship has been sidelined in the constitution making process?
Mwonzora: Thank you very much Chamu and thank you for raising that question, it’s a fundamental question. The issue of the Diaspora has not been sidelined in the constitution. We have uploaded the views from the Diaspora and these views came in two forms.
Firstly there was a hard copy document coming from an organisation representing organisations in the Diaspora. That document is available and we have uploaded it onto our computers and it is specifically went into Diaspora institutional submission. When time comes, that document is going to be analysed and the issues arising there, put into the constitution or considered for the constitution.
The second way that the Diaspora people contributed was via the website. We have the website views; we have them, we have uploaded them onto the computers but let me say that at the time that I was a guest of the state at the Mutare remand prison, the uploading of this information took place, where at, at the instigation of ZANU PF, Diaspora views were left out.
We insisted on the return of the Diaspora views and the institutional views onto the uploaded data so it is there. The reason why Chamu is not hearing anything about the Diaspora, about the institutional submissions is that we have not yet got there to analyse those. Right now we are analysing data that was gathered during outreach.
Once we finish that we will go to the data that was given by the children during the special outreach for children, gather from the MPs and the data coming from the Diaspora. It has been necessary for us to categorise the data from the Diaspora separately because under the qualitative approach, we are also going to look into the circumstances giving rise to certain submissions and why certain groups want certain things.
We foresee that the Diaspora submissions will obviously touch on things pertinent to the Diaspora so it is important that those things be analysed separately so that we give them due importance.
Guma: Well Mr Mwonzora thank you so much for joining us on Question Time. We have so many questions and we couldn’t fit them into this one programme so we are hoping we invite you next week for a part two so that we can finish some of these, we had quite a huge response to the advertisement of your interview so hopefully we can get you next Wednesday on the programme.
Mwonzora: Thank you very much and I’d like to thank the listeners for the interest that they have had in the programme, I want to thank you and I want to thank them for their support in this exercise.
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