CONSTITUTION WATCH 2012
[16th June 2012]
After SADC Summit Constitution-Making Process Speeded Up
The communiqué of the SADC Heads of State Extraordinary Summit of 1st June in Luanda, urged the GPA political parties “to finalise the constitution-making process and subject it to a referendum thereafter”. The communiqué also made it clear that SADC expect the process to be complete before the country goes to elections, as it called on the parties “ to develop an implementation mechanism and to set out time frames for the full implementation of the Roadmap to Elections”. The Roadmap [available from firstname.lastname@example.org] stresses that the constitution must be in place before elections.
This pressure from SADC has had an impact on both the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee [COPAC] and the Management Committee who seem to be making a determined effort to expedite their work. It has also had an impact on all other stakeholders in the process, in whom confidence has been restored that the process will be completed. With all the President’s rhetoric of elections this year with or without a constitution, many people had started to think that the process might just be dragged out until elections were proclaimed and would then be abandoned.
Position at 1st June
On 1st June [as recorded in Constitution Watch of 1st June] the position was that COPAC had – on 31st May – successfully completed its “audit” of the first draft of the constitution for compliance with the instructions given to the three lead drafters, but had been unable to reach consensus on new demands for substantial changes to the draft made by ZANU-PF in a 29-page document commenting on the draft, a document which was “totally rejected” by MDC-T – causing a problem needing referral to the Management Committee.
Progress from 1st June to Date
The Management Committee did not meet last week to discuss the 31st May deadlock over the ZANU-PF demands, because the Select Committee decided to resume meetings to have another look at them – presumably taking into consideration the SADC pressure to finalise the constitution-making process.
On 6th June the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs told the House of Assembly that the Select Committee had been meeting to consider the comments submitted by the political parties and that two documents were being prepared for the Management Committee: “a document of agreed issues and a document of disputes”. The object of the exercise was for the Management Committee to know precisely which issues needed their attention.
On June 7th a COPAC press statement said “we would like to inform the nation that drafting is almost complete”.
On 11th and 12th June – Monday and Tuesday this week – the full Select Committee finalised its documents for the Management Committee. This set the stage for the Management Committee to meet [see below].
In fact the final draft is not almost complete. The Select Committee did not during its meeting resolve all the issues. They managed to agree to compromise on some of ZANU-PF demands but there are still major disagreements between the parties in the process. A major sticking-point is still devolution.
Management Committee and Drafters to Meet 17th to 20th June
The Management Committee has set aside from the evening of Sunday 17th to Wednesday 20th June for a “retreat” at a venue outside Harare, during which it is intended to resolve the issues that have been holding up the finalisation of the second draft of the constitution. The three lead drafters [Justice Chinhengo, Mr Crozier and Mrs Madzonga] have been summoned to be there.
Reminder: the Management Committee consists of:
- the negotiators of the three GPA parties – Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche for ZANU-PF, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Moses Mzila Ndlovu, who replaced Welshman Ncube, for MDC, and Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma for MDC-T. [As they are all government ministers, they have sometimes had stand-ins if out of the country on government business; for example Emerson Mnangagwa has stood in for Mr Chinamasa, and Jameson Timba for Mr Biti.]
- the COPAC co-chairs, and the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs.
The three lead drafters will be expected to modify the first revised draft, which has been widely publicised [available from email@example.com]. The drafting will start immediately, using the COPAC document of agreed revisions. Simultaneously, the Management Committee will be meeting to iron out the disputed issues. As each issue is ironed they will give further instructions to the lead drafters. It is hoped by the end of the “retreat” to come up with a second draft. Whether they will be able to do this remains to be seen. If issues are still unresolved they will be taken to the party principals.
Next stage: Second All Stakeholders’ Conference
If a final draft does emerge after the Management Committee and drafters’ “retreat”, then the next stage is the preparations for Second All Stakeholders Conference.
In their 7th June press statement the COPAC co-chairs said that as drafting was “almost complete” the Committee was now “seized with preparations for the next stage of the process, which is the convening of the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference”.
But, no date for the Conference was mentioned in the statement. This is not surprising because the date will obviously be dictated by when the second draft of the constitution is completed and approved by the principals.
Nor did the statement go into detail about the preparations for the conference. Important pre-Conference actions that have been mentioned in previous COPAC press statements include the following:
- translation of the draft into all vernacular languages and into Braille – a considerable undertaking in itself
- printing of the draft in large numbers for distribution to participants in advance of the Conference – presumably in time to permit them to study it, consult their constituencies and formulate positions to be aired at the Conference
- a “mini-outreach” to explain the draft and help people familiarise themselves with it – an obviously desirable exercise.
In March COPAC announced that the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference would be limited to 2 500 delegates – 1 500 fewer than the 4 000 that attended the First All Stakeholders’ Conference in July 2009. It is to be hoped that the reduction in numbers will assist COPAC to avoid the confusion that characterised so much of the First All Stakeholders’ Conference – when pre-Conference registration of delegates was inordinately slow and inefficient, there were failures in accommodation and catering arrangements, and the opening, when it eventually happened very late, was disrupted by a noisy and violent invasion of the conference hall, and proceedings had to be aborted. The second day also started with continuing logistical problems. All in all, the Conference was not generally conducive to meaningful contributions from delegates.
Civil Society Needs More Information on 2nd Stakeholders Conference
Civil society organisations have been meeting to strategise for the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference. But it is difficult for them to finalise their submissions until the draft is out. Also, numbers of sectoral and provincial representation need to be made known to them. It is hoped that, as numbers are limited, Parliament and political parties will not swamp the process. Civil society draws on a large constituency of educated and informed Zimbabweans, some of whom have been considering constitutional issues for twenty years or more. But such people – academics, practising lawyers, judges, prominent business people, senior NGO officials etc – cannot be expected to drop their other commitments at very short notice. And they will be reluctant to participate in the sort of disorganised scrimmage that occurred at the First All Stakeholders’ Conference. Many were deterred from participating at outreach meetings because of late notice, noisy disruptions especially in Harare, etc. Those attending will also need sufficient time to study the draft constitution and formulate positions and submissions for the Conference. Organisations to be represented at the Conference will need to be given adequate notice of the date and numbers of delegates so that they can make proper preparations.
For a process that is supposed to be for the people, the people have been kept in very much in the dark. There have not been enough official statements explaining the long delays in the process since COPAC was set up on 12th April 2009. It is understandable that there are behind-the-scenes disagreements with three disparate political parties at the helm, and no doubt COPAC wanted to maintain confidence that the process was proceeding smoothly, but in the face of a four-year delay COPAC’s overly optimistic and bland press reports have resulted in a certain cynicism. It would have been more encouraging to keep the public accurately informed all the way. A big problem for the public has been the contradictory interviews given by COPAC members to the press to explain the delays. The latest COPAC signed press release illustrates this: “The Select Committee also takes this opportunity to correct reports in some sections of the media that the process has stalled because of bickering amongst the political parties.” But COPAC co-chairs and spokesperson had stated individually to the media that there was this problem. It would also have helped the public to gauge whether the draft really does capture “what the people said” if the National Report on the outreach stage and the Diaspora and written submissions had been made public.
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