Principals set up committee to deal with Post-Conference Deadlock

Continuing Story of Delay and Deadlocks

The whole constitution-making process has been characterised by delays and deadlocks. Although a “final” COPAC draft [available from Veritas], was signed as complete by the negotiators of all three parties in July [over 2 years late according to the schedule laid down by the GPA] subsequent discussions in the ZANU-PF Politburo led to that party demanding a whole raft of new changes and producing its own re-draft in late August [also available from Veritas].

The other parties rejected the ZANU-PF demands, and it was the COPAC draft that went to the Second All Stakeholders Conference on 22nd October. The Conference merely continued the stand-off, with delegates sharply divided between those supporting the COPAC final draft and those supporting the ZANU-PF demands. No resolution was even attempted at the Conference. The COPAC Select Committee’s report on the Conference [not yet available to the public] reflected the unresolved issues and referred them to the Management Committee.

On 12th October the Management Committee also reached deadlock, with ZANU-PF members wanting the principals to take over and negotiate a solution, and both MDCs saying the COPAC draft, with changes already agreed, should go to Parliament and then to the Referendum. The MDCs’ stance follows the Article 6, but would probably just push the impasse to another level [see Constitution Watch of 19th October].

Next Sequence of Events

With pressure mounting from SADC, the principals decided they would take over the process [as the President warned at the Conference]. But they did not have a special meeting to discuss the way forward. Instead they chose to leave it to their routine Monday weekly meeting.

Monday 19th November : Principals briefed

At this meeting the principals received a briefing from Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga. They then requested him to prepare a report containing his recommendations on the way forward. Another week passed before they took the matter up again.

Monday 26th November : Principals call for another committee

Minister Matinenga presented his report, and recommendation that the Management Committee should try again, at a meeting attended by President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, but the decision reached was to set up a small new Committee which would include a Minister from each party to make further efforts to overcome the deadlock. Professor Ncube was then allowed to join the meeting and was informed of the decision. [This seems an anomaly, as Professor Ncube and his party have been the ones involved in the COPAC process.]

Comment: There has been a great deal of criticism that this step is an interference of the Executive in what the GPA designed as a Parliamentary constitution-making process.

Setting up the New Committee

MDC reaction to new Committee

ZANU-PF and MDC-T were quick to put forward their Ministerial nominees for the new Committee – Ministers Chinamasa and Biti, respectively.

MDC, however, was dissatisfied with the way in which Professor Ncube had been called into the meeting and in effect presented with a fait accompli. MDC Minister and GPA negotiator Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga voiced this dissatisfaction on behalf of the party. She complained that President Mugabe and Mr Tsvangirai were not complying with the resolution of the August 2012 SADC Summit in Maputo that Professor Ncube, not Professor Mutambara, is the MDC principal for GPA purposes. The MDC also made it clear that their party position was that the principals should not take over COPAC’s mandate to produce a new constitution. All this created a general impression that MDC would not be taking part in the proceedings of the new Committee, even though the party’s standing committee had not yet met to decide whether to participate, and would only do so the following week.

SADC facilitation team in Harare

President Zuma’s facilitation team was in Harare on 28th November and held meetings with negotiators of all three GPA parties. The team were briefed on, amongst other matters, the current stalemate in the constitution-making process and the formation of the new Committee.

Thursday 29th November: Clarifying statement by Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs

At a press briefing on 29th November Minister Matinenga explained that the Committee would deal with areas of disagreement in the substantive second all-stakeholders’ report in an effort to unlock the deadlock. If the Committee could not do this, the problem would have to go back to the principals. He insisted that the setting up of the new Committee did not signify that the constitution-making process had ceased to be a COPAC and Parliamentary affair. Any conclusions reached would be referred to the Select Committee for endorsement and the Select Committee would still have to present its report and the draft constitution to Parliament ahead of the Referendum.

Tuesday 4th December: MDC decides to take part in Committee

At its meeting on Tuesday the party’s standing committee decided that MDC would not boycott the Committee. It confirmed Minister Misihairabwi-Mushonga as its Ministerial member on the Committee. A spokesman explained that the party was doing this “to participate in the process of finding the best and quickest route to having a Referendum”, and on the understanding that the Committee is not a new body: “This Committee is a continuation of work done by COPAC”. The new Committee is in fact a pared-down version of the Management Committee, with three members, wearing their Ministerial hats instead of their party negotiator hats, plus the co-chairs and Minster Matinenga .

Composition of New Committee

The Committee has the following seven members:

• Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Matinenga as convenor and chairperson

• three Cabinet Ministers, one from each of the three GPA parties [Chinamasa, Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Biti]

• three COPAC co-chairs. [Mwonzora, Mangwana and Coltart or Mkhosi]

New Committee has First Meeting and Will Meet Again on 10th December

Minister Matinenga convened an inaugural meeting on 5th December. There was full attendance [Matinenga, Chinamasa, Mangwana, Biti, Mwonzora, Misihairabwi-Mushonga, Coltart]. [Note: Mr Mkhosi, Minister Coltart’s alternate co-chair, was absent for medical reasons. Mr Coltart was appointed the MDC co-chair as he is an experienced lawyer, as are the other two co-chairs, but as he has been so busy with his duties as Minister of Education that Mr Mkhosi has been the usual MDC co-chair.]

Since then Committee members’ other commitments have prevented the Committee from getting down to serious work. Minister Chinamasa and Mr Mangwana have been involved in the business of the ZANU-PF Annual Conference, starting with the Politburo Meeting on Wednesday and continuing until Saturday. Minister Biti had engagements in the UK.

The Committee has scheduled its next meeting for Monday 10th December, continuing on Tuesday if necessary. Minister Matinenga has said he believes the Committee can in that time decide whether or not agreement is possible.

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ZESN November Ballot Update

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