Constitution Watch 12-2009

CONSTITUTION WATCH 12

[31st October 2009]

Implications of MDC-T Disengagement from ZANU-PF

for the Constitutional Timetable?

On Friday 16th the Prime Minister and President of MDC-T announced that his party would “disengage from Zanu PF and in particular from Cabinet and the Council of Ministers”.  The work of Parliament continues as normal as does the work of individual Ministers carrying out their Ministerial functions outside Cabinet and the Council of Ministers.  This means the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs is continuing his work on the Constitution.  As will Ministers involved in the new Management Committee [see below].  The Select Committee is continuing to meet under the co-chairs, MPs Mangwana and Mwonzora [who are not Ministers] and Senator Coltart [MDC-M Minister] or his alternate, MP Mkhosi. 

What is the Timeframe Now?

The Prime Minister stated on 20th October that the constitutional timetable will remain the same.  In fact there is no chance of sticking to the GPA timetable [under the Article 6 timeframe the outreach should finish by 13 November].  Nor is there any possibility that the new Management Committee’s revised timetable can be kept – it had resolved that the outreach exercise should start not later than 1st November.  It is now hoped that training of the outreach teams will start on Monday 9th November, but that depends upon funds becoming available in time.

The co-chairs of the Parliamentary Select Committee have said recently that eleven weeks will be needed to complete the outreach exercise – so, making allowance for the teams to break briefly at Christmas and New Year, it seems unlikely that the exercise can be completed before late January at the earliest. 

The next GPA deadline is 13th February – this is when the drafters should have finished a draft constitution ready to be tabled at the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference to be held by that date.  But after the public consultation the data that is brought in will have to be sorted into thematic committee reports to be passed to the drafters.  The GPA allowed three months for this stage.  Minister Matinenga has said previously that this stage could be compressed, but it is highly unlikely that it could be satisfactorily finished in two to three weeks.

Select Committee’s Work Plan for the Outreach Programme

This work plan was drawn up by the by the Select Committee, as the Steering Committee has not been formed.  It provides for an eleven week programme:

Week 1:               Training of thematic committees and outreach teams

Week 2:               Deployment of the teams

Weeks 3 to 11:   Collection of the public’s views by the outreach teams throughout the country’s 1958 wards.  The programme allocates 65 working days for this stage.

Impact of New Management Committee on Constitution-Making Process

The introduction of the new Management Committee set up to “provide leadership and policy direction to the constitution-making process” has resulted in the following significant changes:

Composition of the Management Committee

In a shift from the position originally announced by the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs in his statement of the 18th September that the Management Committee would consist of “a negotiator or a representative of the negotiator from each of the parties to the Interparty Agreement”, the three co-chairs of the Select Committee and the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs”, it now includes all six GPA negotiators – Ministers Tendai Biti and Elton Mangoma of MDC-T, Welshman Ncube and Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga of MDC-M, and Patrick Chinamasa and Nicholas Goche of ZANU-PF

Party Distribution of Thematic Sub Committee Chairpersons and Deputy Chairpersons

The three political parties will now chair 5 committees each and chiefs 2.  The Minister reported that this change flowed from a meeting of the three principals to the GPA.   [Under the Select Committee’s original allocations ZANU-PF and MDC-T chaired 7 committees each, MDC-M chaired 2 and 1 was chaired by a chiefThe changes will also affect the allocation of deputy chairs – as each party selects its quota from the lists of non-parliamentarians that have been put forward. .]  The revised lists of chairpersons and deputy chairpersons have not yet been released, but is expected to be made known on Monday 2nd November.   [It has, however, been confirmed that a ZANU-PF nominee for a deputy chairperson position, Brigadier-General Nyikayaramba, to whom MDC-T objected as being a  serving member of the Army, is not on the new list.]  

Thematic Sub-committees

These remain unchanged and will number 17.  The number of members of each thematic committee remains at 25 per committee [giving a total of 425].  The representation in the committees will remain the same – parliamentarians 30%, non-parliamentarians 70% - in practice 8 to 17.  These thematic committees  will also form part of the outreach teams and will lead the consultative phase of drawing up a new constitution.  [Comment: In view of budget constraints it does seem odd that the number of thematic committees has not been reduced – South Africa’s constitution-making process had 6 thematic committees, the Government Chidyausiku Constitutional Commission of 1999 had 8 thematic committees – see Constitution Watch 9 of 24th September Bill Watch for details.]

Budget

The Management Committee reduced the budget to US$11.4  million [from the Select Committee Budget of $15 million.]  Mr Biti was in attendance and agreed to that figure.  It is likely that Government will fund 25% of that itself, with the rest coming from development partners through UNDP.  But so far no funds have actually been made available – which makes even the new target date of November 9th for starting outreach training unlikely to be achieved.  Funds will go to the Select Committee through the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs and be managed by the Independent Secretariat.

Numbers in Outreach Teams Reduced

Because of the reduced budget, each outreach team will now have 8 members instead of 12.  There will still be 70 outreach teams.  This means instead of a total of 860 members there will be 560.  The Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs has assured us that the proportion of 30% Parliamentarians to 70% non-Parliamentarians will be maintained – in a typical 8 member team this will in practice mean 3 parliamentarians and 5 non-parliamentarians.   The 70 teams will cover 1958 wards in 210 constituencies and each team will need support staff, vehicles, etc. 

The Steering Committee

Next in the chain of command in the constitution-making process is the Steering Committee – “the implementing committee responsible for managing the operations of the constitution-making process”.  It will consist of the Select Committee co-chairpersons with Minister Matinenga and two persons who are supposed to be representing civil society [although not selected by civil society], Dr Sadza and Dr Makhurane.  This committee is expected to meet for the first time next week. 

In the meantime implementation work is being carried out by the Select Committee.

Independent Secretariat Still to be Formed

Offices for the Independent Secretariat have not yet been found and staff have not yet been employed.  Meanwhile a senior clerk in Parliament has been seconded as Acting Co-ordinator in an interim secretariat consisting of himself and a stenographer.   And the co-chairpersons of the Select Committee advertised for applicants for four senior posts in the Independent Secretariat – Project Co-coordinator, Finance and Administration Manager, Media and Communications Manager and Data Collation Manager.  Friday 30th October was the last day for submission of applications.  Short-listing of applicants by the Select Committee will be on Monday 2nd November and interviews will be held on Thursday 5th November.

Select Committee’s Autonomy from Parliamentary Bureaucracy

The co-chairpersons of the Select Committee have explained that its autonomy under the new arrangements means it is no longer “hamstrung” by the parliamentary bureaucracy.  The Select Committee now has its own bank account which will permit prompt disbursement of funds for the outreach exercise, in accordance with the approved budget – once sufficient funds have actually been transferred into that account. 

 

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