Constitution Watch 9-2009

CONSTITUTION WATCH 9

[24th September 2009]

Thematic Sub-Committee Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons

The Select Committee on the New Constitution has announced the chairpersons and deputy chairpersons of its seventeen thematic subcommittees.

  1. Founding Principles of the Constitution

Chairperson: Dr David Parirenyatwa MP Murehwa North [ZANU-PF]

Deputy Chairperson: Bishop Goodwill Shana [Chair, Heads of Christian Denominations]

  1. Arms of the State [Principle of the Separation of Powers]

Chairperson: Thandeko Mkhandla Gwanda North MP [MDC-M]

Deputy Chairperson: Shingi Mutumbwa [Lawyer in private practice]

  1. Systems of Government

Chairperson: Tabitha Khumalo MP Bulawayo East [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: [Chairperson, National Incomes & Pricing Commission]

  1. Bill of Rights and Citizenship

Chairperson: Shepherd Mushonga MP Mazowe Central [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: Mrs Mercy Chizodza-Chiunye [lawyer]

  1. Women and Gender Issues

Chairperson: Betty Chikava MP Mount Darwin East [ZANU-PF]

Deputy Chairperson: Mrs Emilia Muchawa [Zimbabwe Womens Lawyers Association]

  1. Youth

Chairperson: Settlement Chikwinya MP Mbizo [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: Vivian Banhire [ZANU-PF youth]  

  1. The Disabled

Chairperson: Felix Sibanda MP Magwegwe [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: Joshua Malinga [ex-ZANU-PF mayor of Bulawayo]

  1. Media

Chairperson: Makhosini Hlongwane MP Mberengwa East [ZANU-PF]

Deputy Chairperson: Qubani Moyo [Academic and writer on public affairs ]

  1. War Veterans

Chairperson: Clifford Sibanda MP Bubi [ZANU-PF]

Deputy Chairperson: Raymond Majongwe  [Progressive Teachers Union]

  1. Land, Natural Resources and Empowerment

Chairperson: Senator Martin Dinha [ZANU-PF] Provincial Governor, Mashonaland Central

Deputy Chairperson: Munyaradzi Gwisai [lawyer]

  1. Labour

Chairperson: Lucia Matibenga MP Kuwadzana [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: Noah Gwande [Zimbabwe Transport and Allied Workers Union]

  1. Elections, Transitional Mechanisms and Independent Commissions

Chairperson: Tongai Matutu MP Masvingo Urban [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: Brigadier-General Douglas Nyikayaramba [Zimbabwe Defence Forces]

  1. Executive Organs of the State [Public Service, Police, Defence, Prisons]

Chairperson: Senator Reuben Marumahoko, Hurungwe [ZANU-PF]

Deputy Chairperson: Ms Choice Ndoro [Zimbabwe Election Support Network]

  1. Public Finance

Chairperson: Silandu Ncube MP Insiza South [MDC-M]

Deputy Chairperson: George Mutendazamera [Business Council of Zimbabwe]

  1. Traditional Institutions and Customs

Chairperson: Senator Chief Lucas Mtshane

Deputy Chairperson: Mrs Gertrude Hambira [General Agricultural and Plantation Workers Union]  

  1. Religion

Chairperson: Senator Sithembile Mlotshwa MP Matobo [MDC-T]

Deputy Chairperson: Rev. Andrew Wutawunashe [Pastor]

  1. Rights of Minorities and Languages

Chairperson: Andrew Langa MP Insiza North [ZANU-PF]

Deputy Chairperson: Alexander Phiri [National Council for the Disabled]

Chairpersons are all Parliamentarians – either members of the House of Assembly or Senators.  7 subcommittees are chaired by ZANU-PF nominees, 7 by MDC-T, 2 by MDC-M and1 by a chief.  

ZANU-PF nominees will chair the following thematic sub-committees: Founding Principles of the Constitution; Women and Gender Issues; Media; War Veterans; Land, Natural Resources and Empowerment; Executive Organs of the State (Public Service, Police, Defence, Prisons); Rights of Minorities and Languages.

MDC-T nominees will chair the following thematic sub-committees:  Systems of Government; Bill of Rights and Citizenship; Labour; Youth; Elections, Transitional Mechanisms and Independent Commissions; Religion; The Disabled.

MDC-M nominees will chair the following thematic sub-committees:  Arms of the State [Principle of the Separation of Powers]; Public Finance.

A Chief will chair: Traditional Institutions and Customs.

Deputy Chairpersons have been appointed by the Select Committee from civil society.  These were selected by the three political parties following the same pro rata basis as for the chairpersons.  

Members of the thematic sub-committees have not yet been announced.  There will be 25 members of each thematic sub-committee, including its Chairperson and Deputy Chairperson.  

Work of Thematic Committees

The first task of the thematic sub-committees will be to undertake the public consultation process.  For this the 425 persons in the thematic committee will be joined by another 435 persons, both Parliamentarians and non-Parliamentarians.  These extra people for the outreach teams also still have to be announced.  The outreach teams will use a questionnaire drawn up by the Select Committee with the help of “experts” [so far there is no transparency about this process – and these questions are crucial to what answers the people will give].  The thematic committees will be asked to approve the questionnaires.  Then the outreach teams will have to be trained in their use.  Trainers will be appointed by the Select Committee.

Members of the outreach teams will be working full time from the time they first meet until the end of the outreach process.  After that the extra members work will be done.  Thereafter the thematic committees will continue to meet as needed – probably at least a couple of days a week – to help with the analysis of the public responses and the preparation of reports containing the principles on which the drafting committee will work.

These continuous delays will make it very difficult for the staff of Parliament to plan the normal business of Parliament and for those in responsible jobs in civil society to plan their commitments to the constitutional process.

Time-Frame

Reminder of GPA time-line  13 November - Public consultation process must be completed – no later than 4 months after date of First All Stakeholders Conference convened on July 13th.

The Select Committee say they are still hoping to keep to the end date of this time-line and one of the MDC September 13th National Council resolutions was  “The time limits defined in the Article 6 of the GPA must be complied with”.  If this is done it will be at the expense of enough time to do a proper consultation.  

Problem of Funding

The Select Committee have said that the problem of keeping to the time-frame has been one of finance – major funding is needed for the outreach programme – for allowances, transport, accommodation, etc. for 860 people and support staff and services.  The Select Committee ZANU-PF members are insisting that donors must fund via the government, as to accept direct funding for the process from foreign governments and external donors would create the wrong perception.   

The perceived infighting between parties over the whole process and the insistence by ZANU-PF that a new Constitution be based on the Kariba Draft, and the opposition to this by MDC-T and many civil society organisations, has not facilitated fundraising.  The chaotic All Stakeholders Conference was not an inducement for funders to come forward.  Civil society was informed that the reports, including a financial report, on this conference would be forthcoming the Monday a week after the conference – i.e. 20th July.  The reports have still not been made available.  The numerous meetings of the Select Committee since then to plan work they have not yet been able to carry out have eaten up resources and the long delays have not helped to restore confidence

It is hoped that the new Independent Secretariat will also assist the whole process although there are fears it may involve more expense and raise more problems.

Could the consultative process be done more efficiently

The All Stakeholders Conference was a costly exercise and proved so chaotic that what came out of it was hardly different from what the Select Committee had proposed before it was held.  Very little consultation was achieved and civil society recommendations, including setting up a Parliamentary–Civil Society Joint Coordination and Management Committee to improve the management of the process, have been largely ignored and the Conference resolutions on time frame of setting up committees not adhered to.  

Are 17 Thematic Committees a Necessity or an Extravagance?

  • It is of interest that South Africa, a far wealthier country, in the process of writing their new constitution, had 6 thematic committees [see below].  The 1999 Zimbabwe Government Chidyausiku Constitutional Commission had 8 themes [see below].  
  • Some of the wide range of themes the Select Committee has proposed could have been more rationally dealt with under the Bill of Rights theme.  [Note: Even such a wide range cannot be fully inclusive – for example, the elderly, children, other minority and vulnerable groups, etc do not have their own themes – hopefully their rights will also be taken aboard by the Bill of Rights committee].
  • The youth, women and the disabled said specifically they wanted to be represented in each aspect of Constitution making – it may have been more appropriate to make sure that their representatives were on each of a more limited number of thematic committees.  
  • For some of the 17 themes, such as Languages, it would have seemed more appropriate to let the Bill of Rights committee set up a small expert panel.

Comment: It is a pity that the Select Committee bowed to pressure from one political party not to invite experts from other countries for the benefit of their experience, and that the All Stakeholders Conference did not permit real dialogue with members of the public who have been involved in constitutional issues for a long time.  It is also a pity that Select Committee deliberations have not been more transparent and open to public input – they may have been encouraged to come up with a more practical and less expensive work plan.

The South African Constitutional Assembly Set up Six Theme Committees

  • Character of a democratic State
  • Structure of Government
  • Relationship between levels of Government
  • Fundamental Rights
  • Judiciary and Legal Systems
  • Specialised Structures of Government

Chidyausiku Commission Themes

  • Fundamental Rights
  • Customary Law
  • Executive Organs of the State
  • Independent Commissions
  • Levels of Government
  • Public Finance and Management
  • Separation of Powers
  • Transitional Mechanisms

 

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