Too late to throw spanners in the works

It is clear that the writing of a new constitution is not just a struggle for different political parties, but more so for different factions within Zanu (PF). It is also clear that this desperate, sinister attempt to delink the writing of a new constitution from elections is futile because it is simply too late now to begin to throw spanners in the works.

ZCTU demands a share of the Diamonds.
ZCTU demands a share of the Diamonds.

The first draft of the new constitution is ready. It is now with the Management Committee overseeing the process for eventual submission to President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara. Such progress has galvanized elements within Zanu (PF) who appear to have found a willing spokesperson in former party spin doctor Jonathan Moyo to try and separate the constitution-making process from the next elections. Earlier this week rumour circulated that Zanu (PF) had pulled out of COPAC, but chairperson Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T) and Paul Mangwana (Zanu (PF)) denied it. Writing for the Sunday Mail this week, Moyo opined, “It is now absolutely necessary for the Copac constitution and the forthcoming elections to be delinked because the two should not have been linked in the first place. If the delink is not done, then our country should brace up for a phase of certain instability.”

Having failed to stop the constitutional reform process, the usual detractors are now pushing for a new constitution that will not be relevant to the manner in which the next elections will be run.

In other words, this small, peripheral but vocal group wants a new constitution that is not part of the roadmap to free and fair elections. It appears there is a general, well-founded fear that any reforms, no matter how minimal, would raise public confidence that change is possible and lead to overwhelming support for change during the next elections.

Some of the reforms proposed in the draft constitution that are likely to upset key beneficiaries of Zanu (PF)’s patronage system include the stripping of the Attorney General of all prosecuting authority by setting up an independent National Prosecution Authority; the establishment of a Constitutional Court; the imposition of strict two term limits on security chiefs for the police, prison services and the army.

Some provisions in the draft constitution put Zanu (PF) on the horns of a dilemma. For instance, the devolution proposal, so dear to the marginalised people of Midlands and Matebeleland, is clearly not coming from Zanu (PF), and therefore if it becomes part of the new constitution all credit will go to those political parties championing it. It will become a rallying cry for support ahead of elections.

On the other hand, if Zanu (PF) blocks devolution in the new constitution, it will not get any support in those provinces championing devolution. The proposed solution would be to shelve the constitution altogether so that fresh elections are held outside of these difficult issues.

The COPAC team has put transitional provisions in the draft constitution indicating that while the bulk of the new constitution will only take effect after the next elections and once the new president elected under the constitution takes office, all provisions relating to elections will come into force as soon as the new constitution is approved and gazetted.

Moyo then makes the incredible claim that “the GPAdoes not require at all that the next elections should be held under a new constitution.” The whole idea of the GPA was to create conditions and a viable environment under which free and fair elections can be held under a level political field and in the absence of violence or intimidation. The writing of a new constitution incorporating key institutional and legislative reforms therefore became a key benchmark in the roadmap to credible elections. Perhaps what Moyo really wanted to say is that his particular faction in Zanu (PF) is not favoured by the holding of elections after a new constitution has been agreed to.

At first it would appear strange that Zanu (PF), which has senior representatives in COPAC, and who bussed scores of their supporters to parrot particular views during the constitutional outreach phase, should now turn around and call for either the dismissal of the entire process or separation from the next elections. But closer scrutiny reveals deep factional fights within Zanu (PF) and attempts by various groups to position their candidate to succeed Mugabe. It appears a group comprising of the securocrats, and for whom Moyo is acting as unofficial spokesperson, stands to benefit from having elections under the current Lancaster House constitution in the absence of far-reaching reforms. This same group is interested in early elections with Mugabe as Zanu (PF) candidate in the vain hope that, following an imagined victory at the polls, this group would be credited with victory – and their candidate nominated as Mugabe’s successor.

On the other hand, there are some within Zanu (PF) who are convinced that constitutional reform is essential for an acceptable solution to the Zimbabwe situation. It is generally accepted that this group is led by the vice president Joyce Mujuru. Their succession plan does not necessarily rely on Mugabe hand-picking their candidate as successor, but on wide political support within the party which guarantees victory in the event that the party is left to decide its next leader.

It is telling that only last week president Mugabe, while addressing mourners at the burial of Zanu (PF) national hero, Edson Ncube, conceded that the next elections would be on the basis of a new constitution. – Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Post published in: Analysis

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