Constitution Watch 2-2009

CONSTITUTION WATCH 2/2009

[14th April 2009]

 

Parliamentary Select Committee for New Constitution

The Parliamentary Select Committee was announced by the Speaker of the House of Assembly on Sunday – just  before the deadline of 13th April set by Article 6 of the Interparty Political Agreement [IPA].

Chairperson  The negotiations on this position are ongoing.  The Speaker is still holding out hope to civil society that the principals to the IPA will agree on a chairperson from outside Parliament.  If the principals have not resolved the matter by the end of the week, there will be interim co-chairing by nominees of the political parties from among the members in order that the Committee can commence its work

Members  [25 Parliamentarians]

ZANU-PF [9]:  Flora Buka; Walter Chidakwa; Edward Chindori-Chininga; Joram Gumbo; Martin Khumalo; Paul Mangwana; Senator Tambudzai Mohadi; Olivia Muchena; Senator Monica Mutsvangwa

MDC-T [9]:  Amos Chibaya; Senator Gladys Dube; Ian Kay; Cephas Makuyana; Evelyn Masaiti; Editor Matamisa; Douglas Mwonzora; Senator Jabulani Ndlovu; Brian Tshuma

MDC-M [3]  Senator David Coltart; Senator Dalumuzi Khumalo; Edward Mkhosi

Chief [1]:  Fortune Charumbira [President of Council of Chiefs

Others [3]  [Selected by presiding officers]  Senator Thokozani Mathuthu [ZANU-PF]; Jessie Majome [MDC-T]; Gift Chimanikire [MDC-T]

Members of House of Assembly: 17 [68%]; Senators: 8 [32%]; Women: 8 [32%]

1st Meeting  Monday 20th April [afternoon]

Members of the Select Committee were appointed by the Parliamentary Committee for Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO].  The CSRO resolved that ZANU-PF and MDC-T would each nominate 9 parliamentarians, MDC-M 3 and the chiefs 1, and that the nominees would be accepted without debate.  The remaining 3 members were appointed by the presiding officers i.e. the Speaker and the President of the Senate.  Basically the committee was selected to reflect the balance between parties.  As the committee has the final say in most matters pertaining to the Constitutional process, the resulting content of the Constitution runs the risk of being the result of political bargaining between parties with differing agendas.

Speaker’s Statement

[Full text of statement available on request]

The key points of the Speaker’s statement were:

  • The CSRO recommended to the three principals that parties should consider the appointment of a non-Member of Parliament to chair the select committee. 
  • It was also recommended that political parties should consider the chairing of some of the sub-committees as well as the chairing of the two All-Stakeholders' Conferences by civil society and other stakeholders.
  • The constitution making process will require substantial financial and human resources, and he hoped that development agencies and other foreign organisations would assist.
  • Parliament’s presiding officers will be supervising the work of the select committee. 
  • There would be a Media road show to publicise the work of the constitutional committees

Possibility of Modifying Article 6 of the IPA and Standing Orders

Article 6 and Standing Orders taken together provide that all committee chairs should be Parliamentarians.  It would be possible to amend Standing Orders and Article 6 of the IPA to accommodate civil society’s demand that the Select Committee and its subcommittees should have independent chairpersons:

  • Standing Orders could be suspended by votes in the House of Assembly and the Senate [Standing Orders have been frequently suspended when party interests so required – as the fast-tracking of several Bills in the present session has demonstrated]
  • The parties could agree to make appropriate modifications to Article 6.  [As Article 6 was not written into the Constitution by Constitution Amendment No. 19, it is merely an agreement that can be changed by a subsequent agreement.]

While the IPA should obviously not be lightly interfered with, there should be no serious objection to a modification that would give the constitution-making process greater transparency and would emphasise that the process must be owned and driven by the people as stated in the preamble to Article 6. 

Subcommittees

The Select Committee’s first job is to set up subcommittees [under the IPA the Select Committee must set up subcommittees composed of members of Parliament and representatives of civil society to assist it in its work].  Several themes – such as gender equality, human rights, etc – have been suggested but not finalised.  This needs to be done before the number of subcommittees can be fixed.  The party principals’ decision on the chairing of some of these subcommittees in the interests of inclusivity is still awaited.

Next Parliamentary Process Deadline

13 July - Convening of the first All Stakeholders Conference [must be held within 3 months of the date of the appointment of the select committee]

Differing Views on the Select Committee

The Speaker:  said the process is all-inclusive because Parliamentarians represent the people.

Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs:  Minister Eric Matinenga said the select committee is representing all Zimbabweans regardless of their affiliations.

Civil Society’s Constitutional Monitoring Group: There will be a further meeting of civil society to decide whether they will back the process outlined by Article 6 of the IPA.  This would largely depend on the official response to the following demands: the appointment of an independent chairperson of the Parliamentary Select Committee; the appointment of civil society and/or independent individuals to be chairpersons of sub-committees; the appointment of an independent chairperson for both All Stakeholders Conferences; and a guarantee that the process will not be based on the Kariba draft constitution.

National Constitutional Assembly

The NCA has said it believes the entire process is likely to be flawed, hence it would also produce a flawed Constitution.  Their chairperson Dr Madhuku has said "We have demanded that the process should be people-driven.”  He considers that the parliamentary committee would protect the interests of Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara, with "a little bit of disguise of what people want".  He added that the NCA was working hard at the moment to spread the anti-Parliament constitution message.  "We are campaigning for a no vote. We will repeat what happened in 1999. We are saying no to a defective Constitution that is born out of a defective process altogether.”

Unions

Backing the NCA are the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and Zimbabwe National Students Union.  A ZCTU spokesperson said that if the government is in charge of the process, the new constitution will differ little from the existing one..

Churches

There seems to be a broad spectrum of opinions from Church spokespersons ranging from support of the Parliamentary process, to awaiting  the decision of the civil society monitoring group, to supporting the NCA and Unions.

Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Meeting with Stakeholders

[Full text of Minister’s speech available on request]

On the 8th April Minister Eric Matinenga held a meeting with representatives of civil society.  In his introductory address, he made the following points:

  • The process will be inclusive, legitimate and transparent.  As required by Article 6 of the IPA, the process must be owned and driven by the people and must be inclusive and democratic.
  • Although Article 6 and Parliamentary Standing Orders stipulate that the Select Committee and subcommittee chairpersons should be members of Parliament, this may be changed, and that the chairpersons of the two All Stakeholders Conferences would definitely be representatives of civil society.
  • The reference to the Kariba draft in the preamble to Article 6 of the IPA was of no particular significance and that it would not form the starting-point of the process.

 

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