Constitution Watch 4-2011


[30th June 2011]

COPAC Thematic Committees Still Stalled

The work of the thematic committees stopped prematurely on the 9th June.  At that point the committees had completed:

  • ward reports, i.e., reports on the data accumulated from the public outreach meetings in the country’s wards
  • reports on the special outreach meetings held for the disabled, the youth and Parliamentarians
  • reports on the Diaspora responses to COPAC’s online questionnaire
  • reports on written submissions received at COPAC head office. 

Uncompleted work of thematic committees  What remained to be done by the committees as of 10th June was consolidating the ward reports into district reports and provincial reports; and the melding of all reports into a national report.  Two problems prevented the process continuing immediately:

  • a shortage of funds, and
  • the resurfacing of earlier disagreements about the methodology to be employed in analysing outreach data, in spite of the compromise agreement reached between the parties on 12th May for the use of both quantitative and qualitative approaches to the analysis of outreach data and for multiple meetings in any one ward to be treated as one meeting.  [The terms of the agreement of 12th May were set out in full in Constitution Watch of 13th May.]

Both these problems needed referring to the Management Committee for final decision.  Pending its meeting the Select Committee worked to find a solution to the new impasse.  

Decision of Management Committee Still Awaited  On 23rd June the Management Committee was told by the three co-chairs that the Select Committee had managed to reach a fresh agreement on methodology but had not yet reduced it to writing.  The Management Committee deferred its decision until the written agreement had been circulated and members had studied it.  It is now expected to reconvene on Monday 4th July to give the go-ahead for the thematic committees to resume work in accordance with the agreement.

Dates for Resumed Thematic Committee Sittings  If, as expected, the Management Committee approves the Select Committee’s agreement on the way forward, downsized thematic committees will sit for 14 days from 6th to 20th June.  [Details of the revised composition of the committees are awaited.]

Funding The $1 million needed for the remaining work of the thematic committees has had to come from the Government, because the donors have said they will not provide any further financial support for the thematic committees, even though COPAC has determined that the numbers of individuals involved will be reduced.  [The donors are still prepared to provide funds for the drafting stage, which will follow the completion of the thematic committees stage.]

Brigadier-General Nyikaramba Out of Thematic Committee Stage

Up to the 9th June this controversial military officer participated in the thematic committee stage as a ZANU (PF) technical adviser to the thematic committee on elections.   He will not be participating when the thematic committees resume work.  [MDC-T co-chair Mwonzora said Brigadier-General Nyikaramba had been removed because of a  long-standing Management Committee decision that serving military officers could not work for COPAC especially at advisory level.  ZANU-PF co-chair Mangwana maintained that his contract had simply come to an end.]

The Ward Reports

Each thematic committee ward report provides a summary, using a standard form, of the responses of the meetings in that ward to the concepts [i.e., the talking points and questions put to the meetings] for the thematic area of that committee – this information having been extracted by the committee from the meeting reports prepared during the outreach process and then uploaded into the COPAC databank during the data uploading stage. 

At the beginning of the summary the ward and its province and district are identified, and the type of ward stated, i.e., whether urban or rural.  The summary then goes on to list the number of meetings and the attendance numbers for each meeting, broken down under the following headings: youth, male, female, special needs and total.  For each meeting there must be an assessment of the “meeting atmosphere”.  [Note:  The agreement of 12th May stipulates that key attributes in the “qualitative approach” will include “attendance, gender, youth, disability and atmosphere of meeting”.]

Next the document summarises the “meeting response” to the concepts relevant to the thematic area concerned at each meeting, then specifies the “frequency” and the “ward response”.  The “frequency” indicates how many meetings came with a particular response.  For instance, if in a three-meeting ward, all three meetings were strongly in favour of there being a Prime Minister, the frequency would be reflected as 3/3 and the ward response as “Yes to Prime Minister”.  But if only one meeting was strongly in favour of there being a Prime Minister, with one meeting divided but predominantly in favour and one divided but predominantly against, the frequency column would show 1/3 for each different meeting’s response and the ward response would be reflected as “Yes to Prime Minister - divided opinion”.  And so on.

The document ends with a certificate by the committee’s team leaders and rapporteurs stating that the committee has gone through the responses recorded from the COPAC database under the thematic area concerned and confirming that the group responses set out in the summary were recorded in the number of meetings indicated.

Looking ahead to the Drafting Stage

Addressing a SAPES Policy Dialogue Forum meeting on 16th June COPAC’s MDC-T co-chair Douglas Mwonzora expressed his personal opinion that the drafting stage would be completed in July.  That now looks far too optimistic a forecast, given that work on the thematic committee reports will not be completed until 20th July at the earliest. 

The latest tentative timing for commencement of drafting by the drafting committee is the first week in August. 

COPAC has not officially announced the names of those who will make up the drafting committee, although the individuals concerned have all been selected.  The committee will have eighteen members:

  • three lead drafters, all highly experienced professionals
  • fifteen other members, five nominated by each of the political parties
  • the three COPAC co-chairpersons. 

Information still not Available

Notwithstanding costly press advertising claiming that all COPAC does is transparent and open to the public, the names of the committee members and technical advisers nominated by ZANU-PF and MDC who took part in the thematic committee exercise up to the 9th June have still not been made available.  [We were able to publish the MDC-T list in Constitution Watch of 14th June.]  COPAC’s records obviously include these names, because the persons concerned have been paid.  There can be no justification for treating as secret or confidential information that the public is entitled to.  


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