HARARE – After suffering a humiliating defeat at the hands of its coalition government partners over plans to overhaul the draft Constitution this week, President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF is reportedly planning a comeback by using his status as a global political agreement (GPA) principal to reinstate its discarded demands.
With delegates at the second Harare All Stakeholders Conference rejecting the “damaging and unjustified” 200-plus amendments being championed by the ex-majority party, Zanu PF was thwarted at the conference’s session after moving a motion for the support of widespread changes to the draft — only to hit a brickwall on the matter, which would have also undermined the basic principles behind the constitutional process.
After the head-on collision, Mugabe and company resorted to demands of ceding control of the parliamentary process to the executive, in a move that has drawn the ire of several political and civic society players.
Under the envisaged plan, the octogenarian leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara — signatories to the GPA — are then expected to effect changes for the draft “to conform” with their agenda before a referendum.
But Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC, is among those leading the claims that Zanu PF is bent on effecting its new demands through the back door or principals’ forum.
And in demanding that Parliament backs off, Mugabe was not only trashing the notion of separation of powers, but was also making a blatant mistake smacking of “entrenched dictatorship”. Several legislators are opposing the executive’s planned Constitution-making process takeover — that was not in the coalition agreement.
One Zanu PF MP, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it will be regrettable if the party failed to allow members to debate issues openly, adding, people would leave, compounding its already flagging support.
Successive speakers in 18 thematic committee meetings at the conference tore into Zanu PF’s approach — under which responsibility for finalising the draft would pass to the three GPA signatories. In the envisaged plan, the principals could end up playing a far bigger role than the people’s contribution.
The biggest defeat for Zanu PF was the dramatic failure to force the tabling of the national report at the conference despite spirited attempts by the liberation party, including a last minute High Court application by Zanu PF delegate Danny Masukuma.
Days after the conference, the Constitution Parliamentary Committee (Copac) now says it is geared towards compiling a national report on the constitution-making process that will capture the comments and recommendations from the just-ended Second All Stakeholders’ conference.
The report and the Copac draft are meant to be tabled to Parliament for debate but Mugabe is insisting that he must have the Copac draft submitted to him and other principals.
Another Zanu PF MP, who sat in on Copac proceedings in the HICC, said: “This conference has forced a big climb-down for mukuru (Mugabe), and the conference delegates have made it clear that the draft captures what the people said and must be put to a referendum after it comes to Parliament.
“Our colleagues have shown that they don’t want their party to get dragged down by the damage the changes are trying to do to the Copac draft. The big test now is for mukuru, and it will be for him to persuade the Prime Minister to make fundamental changes to the draft and reorganise the whole thing.”
But Tsvangirai has said this is a parliament-led process and says he has “no intention whatsoever, at least on my part, to tamper or meddle with the people’s views.”
The ongoing constitution-making process is seen as a key test for democracy and one that could reshape the politics of one of southern Africa’s awakening economic giants.
The constitutional changes are seen as important to avoid a repeat of the post-election bloodshed in 2008 that killed over 200 people and took the country of about 12,5 million people to the brink of anarchy.
The draft that Copac had produced addressed the corruption, gender equality, political patronage, land grabbing, devolution and tribalism which has plagued Zimbabwe since it won independence in 1980.
The changes allow for greater checks on presidential powers, more devolution to grassroots administrations and an increase in civil liberties. Critics say Mugabe wants to replace the independence charter, which has been amended 19 times since 1980, with another Lancaster House Constitution.
Phillan Zamchiya, regional coordinator for Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, said the constitution-making process is minimalist, and the focus should be on incremental gains.
“However, we reiterate that the incremental gains made by Zimbabweans and the southern Africa region risk reversal if President Mugabe’s authoritarian wish to subvert Article 6 of the GPA and allow Principals to have the final say on the constitution is granted,” Zamchiya said.
“We urge Zimbabweans to collectively launch a “Save the Constitution Campaign” as a way to stop the President’s unpopular overtures.”
Brian Raftopoulos, an associate professor of Development Studies at the University of Zimbabwe said it is now clear that Sadc is once again faced with a severe test of its standing as a mediation body.
He said Zanu PF was hell-bent on “foiling a process that has the potential to unravel its political hegemony in the country.”
“The Zanu PF draft effectively dismisses the major reforms included in the draft and proposes a return to the kind of executive powers and party or state rule that Zanu PF has crafted since 1980,” Raftopolous said. – Daily News