National report a fallacy

After dismally failing to convince all right thinking Zimbabweans to back its unilaterally but badly crafted draft constitution, Zanu PF has turned its machinery into demanding a national report.

By definition a national report is a record of everything that happens in a process. That means in the case of Copac the national report must record among other things, what happened at the First Stakeholders Conference, the public outreach, the drafting stage and what will happen or be resolved at the Second All Stakeholders Conference.

While the other processes have now taken place, the crucial Second All Stakeholders Conference has not yet taken place. Any purported publication of the national report at this stage means that from the report will be missing this crucial information. By its very nature the Second All Stakeholders Conference can make far reaching changes to the draft. This then must never be left out in the national report. Pushing for the production of the national report at this stage is pushing for the publication of something incomplete.

Furthermore, Article VI of the GPA makes it clear that the constitution making process is a parliamentary process. For that reason the Speaker of Parliament appointed the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution (Copac). Among other things the Select Committee must spearhead the drafting of the constitution and make a report of same to parliament. Therefore demanding a national report at this stage is clearly to undermine parliament which is legally mandated with receiving the report from Copac.

Most well meaning people in Zanu Pf have been misled into believing that the figures appearing on the national statistical outreach report denote what the majority and minority views were. In other words where they see 70% or 30% it means that that is what 70% or 30% of the people said they wanted. Using that reasoning it becomes easy to tell what the majority view was on an item.

Unfortunately, this is not what the figures mean. The figures appearing in the national statistical outreach report relate to frequencies. A frequency is defined as the number of meetings at which an issue was raised. It does not matter whether such a thing was raised by 500 people or by one person. frequency therefore does not show to the number of people who said or supported a particular A superior frequency does not therefore show that the majority of people supported the idea.

An illustration may be apposite. Assuming that there were five meetings in which two political parties made two opposing ideas. Supposed in the first four meetings political party A had 500 people at each meeting all supporting the same but zero people on the fifth meeting. The frequency of the idea supported by these 2000 people be 4/5 or 80%. Assuming on the other hand that the other political party (B) had only one person at each of all the five meetings pushing for a different point, the frequency of the issue supported by five people would be 100%. And 100% is a superior frequency to the 80% which however was supported by 2000 people. This Is clearly ridiculous.

For the foregoing reasons figures without explanation as to what they mean are basically meaningless and misleading.

However, more important is the fact that a submission made by the people is as important as the circumstances under which it was said. Illustrated simply, a submission made at gun point should not carry the same weight as a submission made in full freedom. Thus where violence and intimidation were used the submissions made have to be taken with caution. While Zanu Pf has argued for the production of figures, it did not clamour for the production of videos which show how the meetings were carried out which would tend to show whether submissions were freely made or not.

Furthermore, the information that was used to draft the constitution was extracted from the national statistical outreach report by fifteen legal experts drawn equally from the political parties in the GPA. The list of these issues was prepared and signed to by the political parties. Therefore, the constitution was drawn from the national data from outreach and augmented by world best practices where there were gaps in the data from outreach.

The demands for the national report at this stage are premature, misplaced and meant to mislead the people Further, the reliance of figures in the national statistical outreach report without any accompanying information on the atmosphere of the meetings is basically meaningless. It is being resorted to by people fetching for reasons to discredit the process.

However, during the Second All Stakeholders Conference, Copac will make available all information that will enable the conference to discharge the task at hand. Regrettably that information will not be the national report.

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