CONSTITUTION WATCH 14
[17th December 2009]
Select Committee Announces Thematic Sub-Committee Members
At a press conference on 16th December the Select Committee co-chairpersons announced the composition of the constitutional thematic sub-committees. There are 17 thematic sub-committees and each one will have 25 members, making a total of 425 individuals involved in the thematic sub-committees. The chairpersons are MPs or Senators, as required by Article 6 of the GPA; the deputy chairpersons are from civic society. Membership of the thematic sub-committees is shared between parliamentarians and civic society in the proportions 30% to 70% [8 parliamentarians and 17 non-parliamentarians per team]. The Select Committee uses the term “civic society” to include political parties as well as other organisations, so political parties are represented among the 17 other members of each sub-committee. Names were put forward by civic society organisations but the final selection of deputy chairpersons and members of the thematic sub-committees was done by the Select Committee in a way they believed would ensure a balance of people considered sympathetic to the main political parties. The 11 small political parties not represented in Parliament have been accommodated, each being allowed 5 nominees spread over the 17 thematic sub-committees. The Select Committee believes it has come up with a group of people truly representative of Zimbabwean society and characterised by gender balance and inclusivity. [Lists of Thematic Committees and names of chairperson, deputy chairpersons and members in Next Constitution Watch]. Comment: as the sub-committees will be expected to make themselves available at any time for several months obviously they will not include people whose jobs and responsibilities preclude this. Also, because of the delays and the uncertainty that have dogged the constitution-making process [the Select Committee originally said that thematic committees would be set up by 28th July] some people who let their names go forward many months ago have said that they are likely to withdraw because of other work commitments. Others didn’t even know that their names had been put forward and will be unable to make themselves available. There will have to be some revision of the lists.
Additional Outreach Personnel
The Select Committee have also chosen an additional 135, individuals bringing to 560 the total complement of persons involved in the outreach programme to consult the people on what they want in the new constitution. 107 of the 135 extra outreach personnel are Parliamentarians, the idea being that they will use their influence to assist in smoothing out any problems arising in the field. The other 28 will come from civic society lists. The services of the extra 135 will be required for the duration of the outreach exercise only – they will not be members of the thematic sub-committees who continue their work after the outreach.
The programme for the outreach exercise will start with training outreach personnel on 4th January 2010. Consultation of the people will start on 12th January and take 65 days [or more if necessary]. All thematic sub-committee members and the additional outreach personnel will be involved in the outreach exercise.
Outreach Teams: The 560 will be divided into 70 teams of 8 members each. Each team will be responsible for consulting the people in 3 of the 210 House of Assembly constituencies.
Training Programme for Parliamentarians [4th to 5th January]: MPs and Senators will be trained on their own on Tuesday 5th January [arrival and registration on Monday 4th]
Training Programme for non-Parliamentarians [6th to 10thJanuary]: The remainder of the outreach personnel will be trained in a four-day workshop running from 7th to 10th January [arrival and registration on Wednesday 6th].
Deployment of Outreach Teams [11th January]: Outreach teams will then be deployed to the provinces where they will meet officials and representatives of civic society at provincial level on Monday 11th January to explain their programme before starting work the next day.
Start of Outreach: Consultation with the people will start on Tuesday 12th January.
End of Outreach: 18th March 2010 [the consultations are expected to last 65 days but this time will be extended if necessary].
Thematic Sub-Committees’ Responsibilities to Continue after Outreach Finishes: Members of the thematic sub-committees will be expected to continue their work after the outreach exercise to synthesise and collate the results of the consultations with the people. Each thematic sub-committee will prepare a report on what the people want the new constitution to say on the sub-committee’s theme. These reports will form the basis on which the drafters will proceed to produce a draft of the new constitution. [The extra 135 persons not on the thematic committees will not be involved in this exercise.]
Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Continues Advocacy Programme
Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga has been continuing his countrywide series of “advocacy meetings” in Masvingo on Wednesday and Mutare on Thursday. As with his previous meetings in Bulawayo, Lupane, Gwanda and Gweru, the Minister’s aim was to reassure the country that the inclusive government remains committed to the making of a new constitution notwithstanding the delays that have occurred, and to prepare the ground for the Parliamentary Select Committee’s outreach programme in January. Senior provincial officials, chiefs and other traditional and community leaders, and area NGOs are being specially invited to these meetings, but the meetings are also open to all interested persons. An hour is set aside at each meeting for the Minister to answer questions from the floor.
These meetings will continue in the New Year, to cover Harare and the three Mashonaland Provinces at dates and venues to be announced.
Political Rivalry – A Challenge to the Constitution-Making Process
At the Bulawayo advocacy meeting, the Minister’s said: “the biggest challenge we face in the constitution-making process is achieving a conducive environment for everyone to participate in the process openly and freely without fear … How do we achieve this? … without a true and proper healing of the nation it will be difficult for the nation to produce a new constitution”. This was not intended as a signal that the constitution-making process is to be further delayed. It was merely an acknowledgement of the difficulty of the task.
The Select Committee has given assurances through its co-chairpersons that it is alive to the challenges that may arise for outreach teams in the field if political rivalries bring about confrontations at public meetings. The training of the teams will include guidance on how to handle difficult situations that may arise and how members of the teams should conduct themselves in a professional and non-partisan manner.
Leaders of all political parties are urged to curb their party cadres and ensure the process is not disrupted by party sloganeering and disruptive behavior, as was the case in some of the consultative meetings leading to the First All Stakeholders’ Conference and at the Conference itself.
ZANU-PF Congress Resolutions on Constitution-Making
Several resolutions passed by the ZANU-PF Congress on Saturday 12th December referred to the constitution-making process. These resolutions, although strongly worded, anti-MDC and foreign intervention, do not explicitly repeat the earlier ZANU-PF position that the constitution-making process should wait until “illegal” Western sanctions have been lifted. Nor do any of the resolutions mention the Kariba Draft. What is of concern is the phrase “prevent it from being hijacked by those who wish to effect regime change”. This could be an encouragement to party youths, war vets, etc, to block any change in presidential powers or transitional electoral reform. The clauses of the resolutions mentioning the Constitution are:
C. On Land Reform, Resettlement and Agriculture
2. [The Congress] Instructs the Party to ensure that the new constitution and the current Post-Maputo Inter-Party Negotiations do not reverse the Land Reform Programme and instead ensure security of tenure which entrenches ownership and control of the indigenous population over the nation’s land and natural resources.
D. On the GPA and the Inclusive Government
5. [The Congress] Signals its determination to reject any outcome of the Constitution-making process that is not home grown. An acceptable outcome would be a Constitution made by Zimbabweans for Zimbabwe, which entrenches the ethos and gains of the Liberation Struggle and is not the product of any external interference. No foreigners, individual, corporate or national in whatever capacity they may from time to time find themselves involved in aspects of Zimbabwe’s bilateral dispute with Britain, have the right to dictate or impose a Constitutional order on Zimbabwe.
7. Directs all Party members and organs to fully participate in the constitution making process in order to prevent it from being hijacked by those who wish to effect regime change or to undermine the gains of the Liberation Struggle.”
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