CONSTITUTION WATCH 2011
[13th May 2011]
Thematic Committee Stage
During this stage of the constitution-making process opinions collected during the public outreach are to be compiled into reports following the seventeen themes decided on by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution [now known as COPAC] as part of the methodology of the constitution-making process. It was on these seventeen themes that the talking points taken to the public outreach meetings were based.
The outreach teams should have been selected and trained in July 2009 and were scheduled to start and finish work six weeks later. Unfortunately, interparty disputes and the lack of acceptable budgeting systems, which led to donor funding delays, resulted in the outreach only starting towards the end of June 2010 – 11 months late. The outreach meetings were completed in November last year.
Article 6 of the GPA states the draft constitution should be ready within three months of the completion of the public consultation process – this, together with all the other delays, would have seen a draft constitution completed before the end of February.
The further delays since the conclusion of the outreach have been attributed to problems with the data uploading which was supposed to be completed in January. COPAC said that some data did not find its way onto the central computer because of a technical problem. There were also reports of tampering with or destruction of data – all denied by COPAC. In addition it was discovered that data submitted via the COPAC website questionnaire for the Diaspora and written submissions, had not been included and this was only completed in mid-March. The longer the process took, the more funding had to be sourced. Another delaying factor was the incarceration of MDC-T COPAC co-chair Douglas Mwonzora on criminal charges from 15th February to 12th March.
Training of Thematic Committees
The seventeen thematic committees and their supporting staff of technical advisers and resource persons were called to Harare and put up at various hotels in order to attended a workshop on Tuesday and Wednesday 3rd and 4th May at the Rainbow Towers Hotel on how their work would proceed. The objective was to train them in how to analyse the data from the outreach process and prepare their reports, and how to resolve disputes arising in the course of their work. Attempts to find out from COPAC exactly what methodology was to be used to convert the computer data to reports failed – for reasons that subsequently became apparent.
Deputy Chairpersons from Civil Society Fall by the Wayside
It had been stated right at the beginning of the constitution-making process that civil society would be represented in the chairing of the thematic committees. This representation was then diluted by deciding that the chairpersons would be MPs but that civil society would put forward names for deputy chairpersons. A selection was made, but those selected were then kept waiting almost eighteen months. It now seems that civil society choices, no matter how many people they represent, have been dropped in favour of “teamleaders” chosen as representing the three parties. For example, Emilia Muchawa, chairperson of the Women’s Coalition and Executive Director of Zimbabwe Women Lawyers’ Association, found that she had been dropped as deputy chairperson of the Women and Gender thematic committee. And Raymond Majongwe, Secretary-General of the Progressive Teachers’ Union, listed in 2009 as deputy chairperson of the War Veterans thematic committee, this week pulled out of the committee when he discovered that he was now regarded as representing the interests of a political party rather than civil society.
It has taken Veritas ten days since the training workshop started on 3rd May to get the new lists of “teamleaders” who have replaced the committee chairpersons and deputy chairpersons, and the members of the thematic committees, as the COPAC secretariat during this time refused to release them.
[For a process that is supposed to be “owned and driven by the people” [GPA, Article 6] there has throughout been extraordinary difficulty in accessing information from the Secretariat.]
Work of Thematic Committees Interrupted by Disputes
On Thursday 5th May, the day after the training workshop, the thematic committees began work, again at the Rainbow Towers Hotel, starting with the data from the meetings conducted in Mashonaland West and Matabeleland North. The aim was to complete work on 19th May. This week, however, when the committees began to tackle the data from Manicaland, differences between ZANU-PF and the MDC formations erupted, with ZANU-PF insisting on a quantitative approach [.i.e. to count up how many times an opinion had been expressed and the most frequently expressed views to go forward as what the people want].
The MDC formations objected to using a quantitative only approach and said there must also be a qualitative approach [ i.e., the essence of all suggestions should be put forward for consideration]. [Note that at a meeting on 11th April the COPAC management committee decided that analysis of the results of the outreach meetings would be conducted on a qualitative basis.] In view of the many problems associated with the outreach recercise the MDC felt very strongly that account must be taken of the quality of the data coming in – e.g., whether it was informed opinion or mere parroted repetition of a party political election slogan having little to do with constitutionalism; and whether it resulted from bussing-in or intimidation, or other opinions being shouted down [an example being the repeated shouting of “government critics should be “killed”]. In other words, they wanted the atmosphere of each consultative meeting to be factored into the analysis. They also wanted allowance to be made for the uneven rural/urban consultation. There were far more meetings in rural areas – three per ward – than in the more densely populated urban areas, where there was normally only one meeting per ward. As the number of meetings held did not accurately reflect the very different rural/ urban population numbers – a quantitative-only approach would mean rural opinions being unfairly weighted against urban opinions.
[Comment: It is surprising that in the ample time available to it COPAC had not spelled out the methodology for the work of the thematic committees sufficiently clearly to exclude the sort of thing that happened this week.]
As a result of the dispute there were no properly-constituted meetings from Tuesday onwards, although ZANU-PF members staged a UDI and ostensibly continued to work. The COPAC management committee was called in and met on Wednesday – this committee consists of the GPA negotiators, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs and the COPAC co-chairs – but was unable to resolve the dispute in the time available to it. It was left to the Select Committee members to continue efforts to avert suspension of the process and sending participants home.
Meeting Resumed on Friday and Work to Start All Over Again
After a day of crisis meetings on Thursday 12th May, the Select Committee managed to reach an agreement resolving the dispute. Once again the agreement reached was in the nature of a party political compromise. The agreement permitted the seventeen thematic committees to resume their work on Friday afternoon after three wasted days. To make up the lost time the committees may have to work longer hours, unless funding for extra days can be sourced. The terms of the agreement were captured in a press statement released at 12 noon on 13th May:
COPAC PRESS STATEMENT ISSUED 13 MAY 2011, 12 NOON
[signed by all three COPAC co-chairpersons – Mangwana, Mkhosi and Mwonzora]
The Constitution Select Committee, COPAC, would like to advise that the disagreement over data analysis methods which led to an impasse has now been resolved. Stakeholders to the process agreed to move forward as follows:-
There is agreement to collapse three meeting points in a rural ward into one in order to equalize the disparity between urban and rural wards and because the process is ward based.
Where there was more than one meeting in an urban ward, or in any other ward, these shall also be collapsed into one.
- The analysis of the rural data will be done separately from the urban.
- Frequencies or preponderance will not be the absolute determinant of popularity or importance of an agreed concept.
- Both quantitative and qualitative approaches will be applied in data analysis.
- Where we use both quantitative and qualitative methods of analysis, none shall take precedence over the other.
- In the qualitative approach, key attributes will include the following:
- atmosphere of meeting
- All the reports already done shall be revised to take into account the new qualitative dimensions.
COPAC would like to reassure all Zimbabweans that the constitution-making process is on course and would like to allay fears that have arisen from reports that are circulating.
Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied