Law professor to mediate constitution process

professor_muna_talkingtostudentsHARARE Zambian law professor Muna Ndulo, an author who has helped draft constitutions in Afghanistan in 2004 and Kenya in 2008, is due to arrive in Zimbabwe this week with a team of international constitutional law experts to analyse three draft Constitutions that will be used as the basis for drawing up a new governanc

Zimbabwe is resuming the long process towards creating a new constitution ahead of elections in a years time, after government agreed to inject US$11,3 million.

The new governance charter is expected to replace the existing document authored at British-brokered all-party talks at Lancaster House in London in 1979.

Constitution snags

In February, the process of writing a new post-independence Constitution began amid frenzied participation after formation of a unity government between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara.

But the process hit a snag three months ago because of a funding shortfall and sharp differences on the choice of the document to be used as the template.

Beginning this month, the government, which secured funding for the process from donors, will provide US$3,6 million monthly, that would see the deployment of 860 field officers to gather the people’s opinions countrywide and also set up a secretariat, according to Munyaradzi Mangwana, the co-chair of the select committee spearheading the process.

Ndulo, a professor of law at Cornell University Law School’s Institute of African Development, is expected to contribute to the history-defining moment for Zimbabwe and officials have reflected that Kenya, where Ndulo helped draw up a constitution, had similar circumstances to present-day Zimbabwe.

As Zimbabwe again resumes tentative steps towards establishing a new Constitution, the process is already mired in controversy over the Kariba Draft, which bestows extensive executive powers on Mugabe. The President’s party is insisting the document should be used as the template for the new governance charter.

The MDC is calling for this to be a genuine public process – with ordinary people given a real say in drafting the document. President Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) wants the constitution based on the so-called Kariba Draft, which was drawn up by the parties last year.

Walking a tightrope

Ndulo, who will be in Zimbabwe for a week with 14 other international experts, must walk a tightrope, balancing two competing interests, providing sound advice but at the same time careful not to sound as imposing foreign opinion on a process that should be truly home-grown.

Another expert, Cyril Ramaphosa was told in August that he was not welcome at Zimbabwe’s troubled constitution-making process. President Mugabe had previously described Ramaphosa as a “white black man”.

Ndulo and his team were expected to critique the Kariba Draft, the Government Constitutional Commission Draft Constitution, which was rejected in a referendum held in 2000, and the draft Constitution proposed by pressure group National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) in 1999.

Going backwards

Critics say it is going backwards to base the present Constitution-making process on the Kariba Draft, which embodies fewer democratic principles than the rejected Government Draft Constitution.

“Ultimately, the constitution must be for Zimbabweans and by them,” Ndulo said. “After all, theyre the ones who will have to live with it.”

Their goal is to create a constitution that promotes “good governance” and “guarantees civil liberties.” Ndulo hopes the constitution will give Zimbabwe a chance to emerge from a decade-long crisis.

A referendum is scheduled for a year’s time and once a charter is in place, Zimbabwe is expected to have another attempt at holding a free and fair election.

But funding constraints and quarrelling over how to proceed with the making of a new constitution are derailing the efforts of the parliamentary committee leading the process to create the countrys first post-independence constitution.

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