CONSTITUTION WATCH 8
[9th September 2009]
Reminder of GPA Time-line for the New Constitution
13 July – Convening of the First All Stakeholders Conference
13 November – Public Consultation Process must be completed – no later than 4 months after date of First All Stakeholders Conference]
Select Committee “Almost” Ready to Proceed
After long delays, the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution has now said that they are almost ready to set up thematic sub-committees and outreach teams. Whether in fact they are almost ready is a moot point as the Committee have said that funding still has not been secured for the Public Consultation Process. All three of the Select Committee chairpersons have, however, said that the press report that the Select Committee has taken a decision “suspending operations in protest against non-payment of allowances and a lack of funding to complete the task” is incorrect. Planning is continuing and some progress has been made.
Reasons for Delay
The delay has been attributed to:
- Lack of finance – the ZANU-PF chairperson of the Select Committee has said that funding must not come direct from donors to the Committee as that would create the wrong perception, but must come via the government.
- Disagreement between the political parties – with one party being accused of slowing down the whole process deliberately by not getting on with naming their quota of chairpersons and boycotting meetings, the other party blaming a lack of response from Treasury.
Progress on Work Plan for the Consultative Stage
Planning and selection of thematic sub-committees Persons to sit on these committees have been identified, but not yet informed The number of thematic sub-committees will be 17, with each sub-committee having 25 members, making a total of 425 people.
Chairpersons of the thematic committees. These will be all be Parliamentarians. ZANU-PF and MDC-T have each been asked to put forward 7 chairpersons, MDC-M 2 and Chiefs 1. Both MDCs had selected theirs by 16th July but ZANU-PF asked for more time and have not yet put forward their list of names, but have assured the Select Committee that they will be provided this coming Monday. [Note: it is stipulated under the GPA that all the chairpersons should be Parliamentarians. In April, civil society was informed by the Select Committee that the principals would be asked to agree to a revision of this provision so that some of the thematic sub-committees could be chaired by non-Parliamentarians, but nothing came of this. It is also worth remembering that the Speaker in April said Parliament had through its Committee on Standing Rules and Orders [CSRO] recommended to the three principals that parties should consider the appointment of a non- Parliamentarian to chair the Select Committee – again nothing came of this.]
Vice-Chairpersons These will be non-Parliamentarians chosen and then appointed by the Select Committee. There will be 7 each nominated by ZANU-PF and MDC-T, 2 by MDC-M and 1 by the Chiefs. They will be selected by the parties from names of non-Parliamentarians put forward by NGOs and other civil society bodies for the thematic committees.
Planning and selection of Outreach Teams There will be 70 outreach teams to cover 210 constituencies, with about 12 members in each team and each team will visit 3 constituencies. The total number of people involved in the outreach teams for the public consultation process is 860 – made up of the 425 thematic committee members plus and extra 435. There will also have to be a number of support staff for each team.
Construction of Questionnaires This is in progress, but is not yet finished. Technical experts, some of whom were members of the 1999 Government [Chidyausiku] Constitutional Commission have been brought in by the Select Committee to assist in this exercise. When the questionnaires have been drawn up they will have to be discussed and agreed with the thematic sub-committees.
Training The thematic committees and other members of the outreach teams will be trained together in a series of seminars in the use of the questionnaires and the outreach procedures. The Select Committee will identify these trainers. The estimated time for training is about two weeks.
Representation on Thematic Sub-Committees and Outreach Teams
The total number of people in the outreach teams is 860 [425 from the thematic sub-committees plus an extra 435].
Parliamentarians [Senators and MPs] will number 258 out of the 860 [30%]
Non Parliamentarians will number 602 [70%] out of the 860. These will be selected by political parties from a pool of names put forward by NGOs, the business sector, women’s groups, war veterans, farming groups, unions [not ZCTU who are opting out of the Parliamentary-driven process], etc. Which stakeholder groups were approached for names was decided on by the Select Committee. ZANU-PF will select 254 [42.2%]of the 602, MD-T will choose 254 [42.2%], MDC-M 62 [10.3%], and chiefs will choose 32 [5.3%]. The Select Committee has said that the parties have been asked to select members taking into account skills, gender balance and political affiliation.
These percentages of 30% Parliamentarians to 70% non-Parliamentarians will be reflected in the composition of the thematic sub-committees, as will the percentages each party and the chiefs get to nominate for the thematic committees.
After funding is secured it will still take about a month to put thematic sub-committees and outreach teams in place, complete the questionnaires and conduct the training seminars. The Select Committee have said the tasks that do not require substantial funding will be started immediately, while waiting for the major funding needed for the actual outreach, for allowances, transport, accommodation, etc. for 860 people and support staff and services.
The Select Committee have said that they believe they will still meet the deadline of 13th November given in the GPA time-frame. This will mean that the time allotted for public consultation is reduced to about one month. [In fact the GPA time-frame was never incorporated into the Constitution, but there is an obligation on the three parties as signatories to the Interparty-Political Agreement [GPA] to stick to it unless the three principals to the GPA agree to change provisions] There has been talk of the principals meeting to decide whether to alter the time-line but this meeting has not taken place. The problem now is that with the amount of time that has already passed since the All Stakeholder Conference, if the GPA deadline of 13th November is met, then the GPA intention of allowing four months for outreach for wide public consultation cannot be honoured.
Proposal for Secretariat and Executive Director
The Select Committee today resolved that a special Secretariat with an Executive Director should be set up to back its work on the Constitution. So far administrative tasks arising from the Select Committee’s work have had to be carried out by the staff of Parliament. Parliament has to continue with its core business and the amount of work and logistics involved in the public consultation stage and then the collating and writing up the information into reports to form the basis of drafting a new Constitution requires extra personnel and resources. But of course funds have to be found.
Note: the Select Committee did not respond to an offer from civil society arising from their Constitutional Conference for the Select Committee to establish a Parliamentary– Civil Society Joint Coordination and Management Committee to improve the management of the process.
It is sad the something as important as a new Constitution should be the subject of delays caused by inter-party power plays. At the All Stakeholders Conference [which itself was delayed to the last possible moment] attendees were assured the Select Committee would publish notices in the press not later than 17th July giving details of the thematic sub-committees and calling on stakeholders to indicate their fields of interest and nominate representatives to serve on the sub-committees and that the sub-committees would be constituted by 28th July. Not only were these deadlines not met, but calls for nominees were not made public. Although there is in fact no obligation for the Select Committee to stick to what was decided at the First All Stakeholder conference [the GPA states that the Select Committee is to “consult” stakeholders and get their “assistance”] there is a moral imperative that the new Constitution promised to the people of Zimbabwe by the GPA should not be derailed or delayed by party-political tactics. It was also hoped that there would be more accountability and transparency in the whole process.
Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied