Civil society opposes new constitution process

maduku.jpgNCA Chairman HARARE - The creation of a new Zimbabwean constitution is severely straining relations between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its civil society partners, who are usually united by their opposition to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU(PF).

A draft constitution was agreed by ZANU(PF), the MDC, and a break-away
grouping led by Arthur Mutumbara, at a meeting in the Zimbabwean resort
town of Kariba in September 2007.

What has become known as the Kariba Draft paved the way for the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) between ZANU and the MDC, signed on 15
September 2008, although the unity government it ushered in only came
into effect on 11 February 2009 after months of political bickering.

The Speaker of Parliament, Lovemore Moyo, from Tsvangirai’s MDC,
announced earlier this month that a 25-member parliamentary committee
comprising legislators from the MDC, Mutumbara’s break-away MDC and
ZANU(PF) and would lead the process of writing a new constitution.

"The historic inter-party political agreement places the responsibility
of leading the constitution-making process on parliament and, more
importantly, provides an opportunity for the country to create a
constitution by the people and for the people," he said. The committee
is expected to finish the process by 2010 and subject the new
constitution to a referendum by July 2010.

Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly
(NCA), an organization of labour movements, churches, business, human
rights and civic groups, said the process should be driven by civil
society, not politicians, and that they would begin campaigning for a
"No" vote in the expected referendum in protest.

"As the NCA, we reject the parliamentary committee that has been
announced to lead the process of writing a new constitution. The
process should be people-driven and not led by parliamentarians. We
will campaign against it and ask people to reject the flawed
constitution during the referendum," Madhuku told journalists.

The NCA successfully thwarted Mugabe’s attempt to introduce a new
constitution in 2000, giving ZANU(PF) its first electoral defeat since
coming to power after independence from Britain in 1980.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told a
recent meeting of civil society representatives that "the Kariba Draft
is not, and will not determine, the final constitution. The draft will
only serve as a point of reference."

A people driven constitution

The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the largest trade union
federation and birthplace of the MDC, also condemned the fact that the
new constitution would be written under the leadership of parliament.

ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe told IRIN: "We have
always stood by the belief that a constitution-making process should be
people-driven and led by an independent body of people, and that
position has not changed.

If the process is not adjusted so that it is people-driven, then we
will be forced to come up with a position to say ‘No’ to the whole
process and outcome"So far we have not lobbied for the rejection of the
constitution when the referendum is done, the … [issue] is about the
process of coming up with a new constitution. If the process is not
adjusted so that it is people-driven, then we will be forced to come up
with a position to say ‘No’ to the whole process and outcome," he said.

Clever Bere, president of the Zimbabwe National Students Union and another MDC ally, told IRIN they were opposed to the "process of coming up with a new constitution [and it] should not be allowed to proceed.

"As civic society, we were expecting an all-stakeholders conference
that would come up with an independent commission, which would take
charge of coming up with a new constitution, and not politicians, as
has happened."


Post published in: News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *