Constitution Watch 5-2009


[30th June 2009]

Peoples Constitutional Convention 3rd – 4th July

The purpose of this Convention is to get civil society organisations together to define and adopt fundamental and key principles on both the process and content  of the new Constitution and to decide what course of action will be taken if these yardsticks are not met.    The Convention is not meant as an alternative to the All Stakeholders’ Constitutional Conference, to be held in mid-July 2009 by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the New Constitution, but rather a precursor to it.  

There will be 2000 delegates.  Attendance is by invitation, but if you feel your organisation has been left out, please contact the NANGO or Crisis Coalition who are facilitating the Conference.

  • Venue – Harare International Conference Centre
  • Friday 3rd July and Saturday 4th July
  • Time – Registration 8 am Friday

There will be 14 working groups at the Convention:  

  1. The political environment and the Constitution
  2. The National Economy and the Constitution
  3. Gender, women and the Constitution
  4. Freedom of expression, Media and the Constitution
  5. Youth, children’s rights and the Constitution
  6. Transitional Justice, National Healing and the Constitution
  7. National Values and the Constitution
  8. Social Welfare and the Constitution
  9. Mobilisation/ popular participation, Civic Education and the Constitution
  10. Land and the Constitution.
  11. The Judiciary and the Constitution
  12. The Disabled and the Constitution.
  13. Elections and the Constitution
  14. Security services and the Constitution.

These groups reflect the themes that various “clusters” of civil society organisations have already been working on.  The working groups will then meet in plenary to arrive at the Convention Resolutions which will be taken back for ratification by the participating organisations and then presented to the Parliamentary Select Committee on the New Constitution.

It is also hoped that the Convention will result in building understanding and strategic cooperation between the broad spectrum of civil society organisations holding different views, ranging from those who are fully committed to engagement in the Parliamentary-driven process, to those who are engaging in it with caution and with “bottom line” provisos already worked out, to those who will be working outside it on educating the public on constitutional principles.  The overall aim is to achieve a new people-driven and democratic constitution for Zimbabwe.

There will also be discussion on [if the new constitution coming out of the Parliamentary-driven process is satisfactory] the timing of when the new constitution will come into being and the holding of elections under such a new constitution.

[The recent controversy over the Kariba Draft Constitution – the strong ZANU-PF statements endorsing it and the MDC-T repudiation of it – has  heightened fears that the Parliamentary-driven process will produce an unsatisfactory political compromise.  This may well result in participants at the Convention taking time for debate and strategic planning for the potential consequences in the event of the new constitution proving to be unsatisfactory.  A no vote in the referendum?  What implications will this have for the inclusive government and for the hoped-for new elections?]

Reminder – First All-Stakeholders Conference Due Soon

This is scheduled for 10th – 12th July 2009

[The IPA time frame says it must be held before the 13th July, three months after the setting-up of the Select Committee.]

The selection of delegates to the Conference is being done by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the New Constitution on the basis of who registered at the Provincial Consultative Meetings last week.  Presumably organisations and individuals selected as delegates will then be notified. 

Report on Provincial Consultative Meetings

Thousands of Zimbabweans converged at the ten provincial centres on the 24th and 27th June to attend the Provincial Consultative Meetings to identify attendees/stakeholders for the First All Stakeholders Conference.  There were long queues while people registered in hopes of being selected as delegates.  Many of those attending were bussed in, and party political supporters seemed predominant.  Civil society organisations were able to use their resources to ensure they had representatives registering them.  What is not clear is how many members of the public who fell outside these groupings managed to attend.  The meetings were all marked by long speeches by the members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the New Constitution explaining the process.  Unfortunately in some meetings this gave room for only minimal participation from the floor.  Most of the questions revolved round suspicions about the Kariba Draft, and whether politicians would tamper with what the people said they wanted when the draft was produced. 

Not all meetings were uneventful.  In some meetings rival party political slogans caused disturbances.  In Mutare, the meeting was delayed – it  was claimed that district administrators in Manicaland province barred members of the MDC from boarding buses that had been provided by Parliament to ferry people to the venue and as a result a number of MDC supporters were left stranded at different pick-up points.  In Masvingo there was a rowdy dispute between Zanu PF supporters and MDC-T supporters on the subject of the Kariba Draft Constitution.  War veterans, bussed from across the province, confronted the MDC-T MP, and supporters from both Zanu-PF and the MDC then started fighting and the organisers were forced to abandon the meeting.

Women’s Summit on the Constitution

This “Summit”, held from the 19th to the 20th June 2009, at the Harare International Conference Centre, was organised by the Ministry of Women's Affairs, Gender and Community Development and the Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe.  It was attended by about 1 500 women from all over Zimbabwe.  It was opened by Vice-President Joice Mujuru and addressed by members of the Parliamentary Select Committee on the New Constitution, by women MPs, and by Theresa Makone, chairperson of MDC-T Women’s Assembly and Oppah Muchinguri, chairperson of the ZANU-PF Women’s League, cheered on by a large number of Women’s League Supporters.  The most important resolution to emerge was that women demanded that the consultative process on the Constitution, including the thematic subcommittees, must include 50% women.


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