CONSTITUTION WATCH 6
[10th July 2009]
First All-Stakeholders Conference on the New Constitution
Monday 13th – Tuesday 14th July 2009
Venue Harare International Conference Centre
Starting Time 8 am Monday [Registration from 8 am Sunday]
Closing Time on Tuesday
Prof Makurane and Dr Hope Sadza
Methodology of collecting and collating evidence on the people’s wishes
Determining the process of constituting subcommittees [including thematic committees] of the Select Committee
Civil Society Space at the Conference
NANGO on behalf of The Civil Society Coordinating Mechanism for Constitutional Participation, spearheaded by NANGO and Crisis Coalition, have booked the Jacaranda Room in the Rainbow Towers as a place for civil society to meet and caucus before, during and after the Conference. Civil society organisations are encouraged to make use of this facility which will be open from 8 am Sunday to Tuesday evening.
Uncertainly Caused by Postponement
Most people were geared up for the Conference this weekend as it had been scheduled for 10th – 12th July 2009. There was considerable anxiety and frustration when civil society organisations who have been working for years on constitutional reform had not received invitations and had heard nothing. The Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution, who are mandated by the Interparty Political Agreement [IPA] to drive the constitutional process, were locked up in marathon meetings in Parliament going on for days.
The postponement came after disputes following the Select Committee presenting its plans to other Parliamentarians. Originally some MPs wanted it delayed to the 26th. The reason was that they needed more time to prepare their delegates. The State press reported that there were also members of the Select Committee, namely Chief Charumbira, ZANU-PF chief whip Joram Gumbo and Minister for Women’s Affairs Olivia Muchena, who sought a postponement and said that the Select Committee had made some decisions when some members were not able to attend meetings.
The Select Committee chairpersons stuck to their guns and said they had to follow the Interparty Political Agreement [IPA] timeframe. [The IPA says it must be held before the 13th July, three months after the setting-up of the Select Committee.] A compromise was reached and the meeting is now scheduled for next week. The Speaker of Parliament said that there had been “immense pressure to defer the conference for a longer period of time by certain political parties, but my job is to implement what is outlined in the GPA...if there are those who want to derail the process…we will not allow it.”
The Select Committee, however, gave way on the invitation of distinguished guests from other countries whom they had wanted to attend and give the benefit of their wisdom and experience – Mr Cyril Ramaposa and a Rwandese legislator. They will not now be attending.
[It is unfortunate that the conference, instead of being held over the weekend, is now on a Monday and Tuesday and very late notice is being given. It makes it very difficult for professional people and those in full-time employment to make the necessary arrangements. But this suited the political parties who said they wanted to bus their delegates in on Sunday.]
Selection of the 4000 Delegates for the Conference
Breakdown of Delegates
1600 [40%] of the delegates will come from Political Parties including Members of Parliament
Of the other 60% - all are allocated to organisations:- Churches get 400 [10%], NGOs 320 [8%], War Veterans Associations 240 [6%]; Women’s Organisations 240 [6%]; Labour [mostly ZANU-PF affiliated organisations] 200 [5%]; Youth [a good percentage of ZANU-PF affiliated organisations] 160 [4%]; Business 120 [3%]; Farmers 80 [2%]; Traditional Leaders 80 [2%]; Disabled 80 [2%]; Local Authorities 80 [2%]; Government Arms [Executive and Judiciary] 80 [2%]; Children 40 [1%]; Informal Sector 40 [1%]; Academia [mostly teacher training and technical colleges] 40 [1%]; Arts and Culture 24 [0.6%]; Media 24 [0.6%]; Residents/Ratepayers Associations 24 [0.6%]; Parastatals 20 [0.5%]; Minorities 20 [0.5%]; Professional Boards 20 [0.5%]; Traditional Healers 16 [0.4%]; Sports 16 [0.4%].
Note: Individuals were invited to provide information about their qualifications and skills. These seem to be ignored.
It is still not clear how diaspora organisations will have a say in this important Conference.
Many civil society organisations and networks that have been working for years on Constitutional issues and civic education were not given representation. Some of the large networks, e.g., those representing hundreds of HIV/AIDS organisations, have been left out.
The Select Committee has said they would allocate a few more delegate places to CSOs that had been omitted, but this has not yet been done.
Civil society organisation invitations are being distributed through NANGO and Crisis Coalition.
Method of Selection
This was supposed to have been done by the Select Committee on the basis of who registered at the Provincial Consultative Meetings month, but it seems there might have been considerable “interference” from other Parliamentarians and staff of Parliament.
Comment: It was reported that in some provincial consultative meetings party supporters and war vets were mobilised to attend [and caused considerable disruption]. This could well have reduced the attendance of other civic-minded people. It was also reported that in some districts allocation of buses was done with party-political bias. The selection of delegates being in the hands of the Parliamentarians gives Parliament huge de facto control over the outcome of the Conference – it would be more transparent if civil society monitors had overseen this process. This, together with the overweighed number of political party delegates, feeds into fears that the constitution coming out of this process will be largely a political compromise.
Organised Civil Society Reactions
We “are dismayed to note the unfavorable distribution of delegates, wherewith some bogus and/or politically aligned organisations have been given a greater share of delegates compared to organisations already invested in the reform process.”
The Law Society of Zimbabwe has been given 2 delegates; the Bee Keepers Society have been given 2 delegates.
“It’s just all about political parties”.
“We will reserve judgement till we see the composition of the subcommittees who are to go around the country consulting the people. It is that process which will determine the main content of the Constitution.”
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