Constitution Watch 11-2012

CONSTITUTION WATCH 2012

[18th July 2012]

Negotiators Reach Agreement on Second Draft

Questions About Second All-Stakeholders Conference

Push by Management Committee

17th to 20th June Nyanga Retreat  The Management Committee, including the GPA negotiators, met at Nyanga to try and conclude the revision of the first draft and to make any new decisions about the requested inputs following review by the political parties, some of which the Select Committee had not been able to decide on.  The three lead drafters were present at this Retreat, and as each portion was revised to incorporate new inclusions/exclusions, it was given to them for formal drafting.  Unfortunately the process was not completed at Nyanga as had been hoped.

31st June and 9th, 11th, 13th and 16th July meetings in Harare  The Management Committee met to continue the work of the Nyanga Retreat.  The drafters worked almost every day for a month to capture the revisions and decisions made by the Management Committee.

Last Meeting 17th July until 5 am today [18th]

Yesterday, the Management Committee met and the lead drafters were on standby for what was hoped would be a final wrap-up session on the Second Draft.  In a great show of determination they worked through the night and agreed on a final version of the Second Draft. 

Next Steps

Second Draft to Parliamentary Select Committee

The Parliamentary Select Committee will probably meet tomorrow to receive the Second Draft.  The negotiators have stressed this meeting is only to inform them but not for them to make alterations.

Second Draft to Principals

The final step before the release of the Second Draft is for the Management Committee to present it to the GPA principals and obtain clearance to go ahead with the remainder of the constitution-making process.  As the final Second Draft is the de facto product of the GPA negotiators, it is unlikely the principals will call in other advisers – this would raise the possibility of further changes having to be made which would also have to be subject to negotiation and would slow down the process all over again.

COPAC Promise to Make Second Draft Officially Available

At a meeting with civil society representatives on 5th July COPAC Co-chair Douglas Mwonzora promised that official copies of the Second Draft would be made publicly available as soon as it was finished.  He expressed the hope that doing this would avoid the unfortunate “information gap” that resulted from the unofficial leaking and publication contrary to COPAC’s wishes of the revised First Draft.  

Second Draft – Product of Party Political Negotiations

Article 6 of the GPA acknowledges “the fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves” and “that the process of making this constitution must be owned and driven by the people and must be inclusive and democratic”.  But, although there was wide consultation with the people during the Outreach, it has become clear that the draft constitution we will get is largely an outcome of the three GPA political parties’ negotiations:

  • COPAC has never produced a consolidated national report setting out its findings as to what the people said 
  • The absence of this report left the different parties scope to argue about what the people really said during the Outreach and what they want in the new constitution.  Each party claims to know what the people’s views are – but their versions differ. 

Next Stage – Second All Stakeholders Conference

Once the Second Draft has been accepted by the GPA principals, the next major stage in the constitution-making process as laid down by Article 6 of the GPA is the Second All Stakeholders Conference.

What is the Purpose of this Conference?

Article 6 of the GPA does not state the role of this Conference.  It merely says that the draft must be “tabled before” a Second All Stakeholders Conference.  This prompts such questions as:

  • Is the consultation at the Second All Stakeholders Conference going to be merely a token one at which civil society will receive information and explanations, but changes will not be entertained?  This was implied in a COPAC press statement of 9th February 2012  which said that the draft constitution “will be availed to all Zimbabweans to comment on at the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference”. 
  • Or is it to allow further input from stakeholders?  A press statement, dated 10th May 2012, stated that “Once the complete COPAC Draft Constitution has been adopted by the Management Committee, it will be availed to the people of Zimbabwe for broader consultations, culminating in the Second All Stakeholders Conference and the Referendum.  A Final COPAC Draft Constitution will incorporate changes that the people of Zimbabwe, through their representatives at the Second All Stakeholders Conference, would have made to the Draft agreed to by the coalition partners in the GNU through the current consultations.”

It would seem desirable, as the whole process has been so much in the hands of the GPA parties, that there should be an incorporation of views at the Conference.  On the other hand, there is consensus that the Constitution should be in place as soon as possible, and further input at this stage could cause more delays.  If there are changes suggested, there is likely to be more party political dissension over what is to be incorporated.  The lead drafters would have to redraft sections, it would have to go back to political parties for review, etc.  A call for input may also be an invitation to war veterans to go on the rampage again or to ZANU-PF to try again for more of its 29 pages of demands to be incorporated.  The process could be endlessly prolonged.

The position that the Conference is for information and comment only seems to be the current opinion of experts Veritas has consulted.  But with previous conflicting statements from COPAC, until there is a formal new statement from COPAC the purpose of the Conference remains ambiguous.

COPAC on Preparations for Second All Stakeholders’ Conference

According to their press releases and co-chairs’ and secretariat’s statements

Printing the Second Draft   COPAC has already called for tenders. 

Translations  COPAC has promised translation of the Second Draft into all vernacular languages and into Braille.

Publicity  COPAC will be producing booklets, leaflets and TV and radio programmes, summarising and explaining the draft. 

A country-wide outreach  will be conducted by COPAC to explain the draft and help stakeholders and members of the public to familiarise themselves with it. 

Civil society Preparations for the Second All Stakeholders Conference

Different sectors – women’s groups, children’s rights groups, environmental groups, those pressing for more devolution of power to regions or provinces, etc – have been holding workshops and conferences about their stance for the Second All Stakeholders Conference.  Some sectors have drawn up lists of demands and have threatened to vote NO in the referendum if these are not met. 

They need clarity as soon as possible on:

  • Whether new inputs will be accepted
  • Dates for the Conference
  • The process of identifying delegates   [COPAC said some time ago that there will be 2500 delegates – compared to the 5000 odd that participated in the chaotic First All Stakeholders’ Conference in 2009 – but how representation will be decided – by sectoral and geographically – needs to be clarified.]

 

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