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Seat interview with Eric Matinenga and Lovemore Madhuku - Zimbabwe
Violet Gonda, SW Radio Africa
May 29, 2009
Read Part 2
of this interview here
GONDA: Eric Matinenga, the Minister of Constitutional and
Parliamentary Affairs, and Dr Lovemore Madhuku, the Chairman of
the National Constitutional
Assembly are my guests on the Hot Seat programme this week.
Let me start with Minister Matinenga, what is the state of the Constitutional
reform process right now?
MATINENGA: Violet, the process as you know is governed
by the provisions of Article 6 of the Global
Political Agreement. The starting point in that Agreement is
the establishment of a Parliamentary Select Committee. That Committee
is now in place and that Committee is earnestly making preparations
for what we call the First Stakeholders Conference which must be
held about mid-July. In making these preparations, the Select Committee
has firstly chosen three co-chairs; it has also established a number
of draft committees in order to drive the process through to the
First Stakeholders Conference.
committees is a budget committee for obvious reasons, there is a
stakeholders committee which will seek to establish who is a stakeholder
and how these stakeholders are identified. It has also established
a management committee again for obvious reasons so that it manages
its life up to the First Stakeholders Conference. It is also going
to be doing some outreach programmes between now and the First Stakeholders
Conference. These outreach programmes are meant to make sure that
civic society, stakeholders are part of the process from the very
beginning. You know they are also doing a draft plan and again this
draft plan is going to be put to various stakeholders and civil
society so that anything which has been done by the select committee
up to the First Stakeholders Conference is done through the ownership
of the people of Zimbabwe .
GONDA: So what is the budget for this exercise?
The budget, or the budgets are going to be different. We look at
the budget between now and First Stakeholders and the budget after
Stakeholders will be entirely different. In fact there are going
to be, let me say, three draft budgets. There is a budget between
now and First Stakeholders', there is a budget for the First
Stakeholders proper and there is a budget post-Stakeholders'.
The budget has not been definitively finalised yet because as I
said earlier on we are looking at an outreach programme in preparation
for the First Stakeholder so it is a budget which is changing every
time, unfortunately on the upward side
But can you give us a rough estimate?
MATINENGA: We are looking at, if we go to the First
Stakeholders, we are looking at something in the region of US$1.5
And after Stakeholders?
Sorry, after Stakeholders, it's virtually impossible because
we don't even know the numbers at Stakeholders and in particular
it is at the Stakeholders, that the issue of committees is going
to be determined and our budget will now have to be worked having
regard to what the stakeholders, civic society and everybody else
has said must be done arriving out of the First Stakeholders. Obviously
it's going to be more than US$2 million.
So what about the issue of the repressive laws because many people
have been asking about this. Where are you in terms of unbundling
repressive laws like the Criminal Codification Act which is where
the draconian Public Order and Security Act is stuffed?
Just today Violet, we met as Council of Ministers and there is a
draft legislative agenda circulated by the Prime Minister's
department which identifies these various pieces of legislation
which must be addressed in order that we seek to make our society
freer so that, not only that during this process but for time to
come, we are in a position to associate freely, we are in a position
to express ourselves freely. Let me also say that on Monday next
week, the committee on Standing Rules and Orders, which committee
is tasked with the responsibility of putting in place the various
commissions is meeting for the second time in order to put final
touches to the establishment of the various commissions -
your Media Commission, your Human Rights Commission, your Anti-Corruption
Commission and ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission). So while the
constitutional process is progressing as I explained, we are also
making sure that the various issues which are necessarily attendant
to having a properly participative constitutional process are being
Why has there been such a long delay in repealing these repressive
legislations, especially when you don't actually need to wait
for a new Constitution to scrap these Acts?
Let me differ with respect. We've been in government now for
about three months and when one has regards as to where we come
from, one cannot expect that things are going to change in a day
or a week. Yes maybe things could have moved at a quicker pace but
certainly we (inaudible) to our responsibilities and these issues
which are a cause of bother are issues which are being addressed.
But you know your critics say that your party in particular is not
getting its act together fast enough to start this debate of the
new Constitution and say that for example you are actually in danger
of losing your majority in parliament especially as you have under
six months left when the moratorium on by-elections expires. How
do you respond to this?
I think when people talk about a democratisation process, people
should not look at one aspect of this process. People should look
at myriads of things which must be attended to and you know it is
critical that whilst people must criticise - it is healthy that
they should criticise - people should also seek to look at
where you are coming from. We are coming out of a situation, nearly
a war situation in Zimbabwe and coming out of such a situation one
cannot expect that immediately the following day metaphorically
then things should dramatically change because that is not what
life is all about. Life is slightly different unfortunately.
Your critics say Zanu-PF is in no rush to change some of these laws
since it created them and you mentioned a bit about media reforms
and we all know that one of the most important aspects for opening
up the democratic space is media reform so why is there this delay?
What is the delay about? What are the challenges you are facing
Violet, there is no delay. You specifically made reference to media
reform, the nature in which our laws are made up is that there should
be a Media Commission and that Media Commission is established by
the Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, so firstly you have
to put in place that Committee and then that committee will then
have to meet. It has met once; it is meeting again on Monday in
order to put the final touches to the establishment of one of these
But surely, the government was formed three months ago as you've
also said on this programme, why is it they have only met once for
such an important process like this?
Violet, I tell you there are so many demands on this government.
Yes, media reform is one of the important components or one of the
important issues which we have to address but it certainly is not
the only one and the fact that this committee has met once and is
meeting for the second time does not mean that it minimises the
issue of media reform, no. In fact what happened when the committee
met the first time it established a sub-committee. The sub-committee
then met in order to suggest procedures regarding the manner in
which this commission must be set up and the sub-committee obviously
will then make recommendations to its main committee which is meeting
on Monday - in order to assess the recommendation and to move forward.
So it is not a question of sitting on our backs and doing nothing,
no. Something has been done and is being done.
What is the legal status of the Media and Information Commission
and do journalists really need to be accredited because there seems
to be confusion over this issue now?
Yes, there has been two positions; one stated by the Prime Minister
and one stated by the Minister of Media, Information and Publicity
and the Prime Minister has clearly indicated that he's going
to be speaking to the relevant Minister in this regard so that there
is a consistent position on this point.
So what is the position?
The consistent position, as I am aware of it, is the one stated
by the Prime Minister.
Can you just elaborate on that?
Now the Prime Minister has indicated that the Media Information
Commission which used to be responsible for these issues in regards
to our particular environment is no longer effective and until such
time that there is a Commission which is going to be set up in terms
of the new dispensation, then that Media Commission which used to
operate can safely be ignored.
So why is it that the Minister of Information Webster Shamu and
even the President's Press Secretary, George Charamba insist
that journalists need to be accredited? Why are they contradicting
the Prime Minister on this?
I wish I could respond to that question but unfortunately I can't.
They obviously appear to be working on a different wave length to
what the position is and what the Prime Minister is saying. But
what the Prime Minister has said is obviously going to be followed
up and I'm aware that the Prime Minister is going to be speaking
to the relevant Minister in this regard.
OK. Let me bring Dr Madhuku into this discussion. Dr Madhuku, first
of all why is the National Constitutional Assembly so against the
government constitution making process, since the GPA has clearly
defined a process of consultation? What are your concerns about
the process in the present form?
MADHUKU: Our concerns are very clear. We have always made
these concerns not just in relation to this current process but
also in relation to previous processes. So we are simply restating
positions that we have held as an organisation from our formation
some 12 years ago. We believe that a constitution making process
must not be led by the government of the day or the political parties
who dominate the government of the day. I think the process must
be led by an independent body which is constituted by various stakeholders
but that body must not just be independent it must also be seen
to be independent. And one way of ensuring that there is an independent
process is to get a commission, normally chaired by a judge or a
former judge or some other independent person but for the NCA now
we are insisting on a judge or a former judge and you can get those
policies in that board and others.
process was brought to the country by the political parties who
were negotiating the so-called Global Political Agreement. That
is a clear indication that it is a political party-led process of
making a new constitution for the country. Even if it then involves
people being invited by the political parties to join it, it doesn't
change the fact that it is led by politicians. I think I heard from
the Minister there that the political parties who are in the Select
Committee have actually set up a sub-committee that they call a
Stakeholders Committee or Stakeholders Conference Committee and
he said that the purpose of that committee is to then look around
and say who is a stakeholder, who is not.
So even the
definition of who qualifies to be a participant of that so-called
Stakeholders Conference will be decided by the authorities. They
may do pre-Conference consultation but at the end of the day they
are going to send out invitations themselves to the people that
they would want attend and that is wrong as far as we are concerned.
So our concerns are based on the process which we believe is dominated
by the political parties. I must quickly add that the political
parties themselves may have realised that they were dominating the
process, they tried at some point to change some aspects, for example
trying to get an independent chair for the Select Committee. They
failed that. We still don't have that and so on and so it
is a clear compromise process so the NCA is opposed to it.
But you know some people have said that as the NCA, you really need
to unpack this notion of a people driven process of yours so that
your alternative is clear because some may say because it's
going through parliament, the parliamentarians are representatives
of the people. So what happened though to the NCA draft constitution
of 2000 and how different is the situation now and what happened
I think you are asking me that question - the answer should
be clear. The 2000 process is no different from the current one
in fact the current one is worse than that 2000 one. In 2000 we
had a Constitutional Commission which was chaired by a judge of
the High Court Justice Chidyausiku - we had problems with his independence,
but the Commission then had about 400 members. More than half of
whom were not members of parliament. Each member of that Commission
was equal to the other, in other words, there was not a super group
made of members of parliament and another sub-group made of civil
society. The current one says you have a Select Committee, everyone
else is sub-standard, you are actually supposed to be in a sub position,
and you report to the Select Committee so there's this superior
group and inferior group and so forth.
The 2000 one
didn't have that. The problem then in 2000 was that the President
at the end of the process did change some provisions of the draft
that had come from the Commission. In the current process there
are so many opportunities, not just for the President but for other
people who now sit in a group of three, they are called Principals
- who have a lot of powers. And one of the powers exercised so far
is that they will not accept an independent person to chair the
Select Committee. So you will have so many people changing whatever
the people have said even though there are assurances from the Minister
and others that won't happen. We in the NCA don't believe
that, we don't trust it, we would not take the risk of participating
in a process where we realise that there are so many frameworks
for the tampering of the peoples' views.
So what are you advocating exactly? That the 2000 NCA document be
part of the debate or a consolidation of the two documents?
We have not said any of what you are saying, we have not said that.
That is obviously not acceptable. What we would want which we have
advocated and have expressed this to the government; we are not
saying this is what must happen, this is our view as the NCA. Of
course some people may not accept it; they have the freedom not
to accept it. We also have the freedom to insist on our process.
We believe that there must be established, an independent Commission.
The establishment of that Commission can be facilitated by the government
in discussion with civil society and come up with a board of between
400 and 600 people in the country who are generally acceptable to
both the government and civil society. That body becomes an independent
body that then takes the whole process of coming up with a new constitution,
ending with a referendum.
But Dr Madhuku, you have already started a 'Vote No'
campaign, so what happens if the parliamentary process comes up
with the same constitution as yours, something that you actually
It is a very serious media misdirection to say that the NCA has
already started a 'Vote No' campaign. I mean if you
go anywhere in the country, you won't see any 'Vote
No' posters, no 'Vote No' pamphlets, no Vote No
meetings and so forth. There's no such thing. What the NCA
is saying is that it will campaign for a 'No Vote' when
the time comes. At the moment we are in the process of trying to
persuade the authorities to embark on an acceptable process to us,
acceptable to the majority I think of those who believe in a process
not led by government.
So at the current
stage we are advocating for an independent process which we believe
is what we will call a people driven process. But of course the
government is going ahead. We will campaign for a 'No Vote'
if the referendum is called; there is no 'No Vote' campaign
at the moment. At the moment we are on the underground, talking
to people and advising them that the current process is not acceptable.
Minister Matinenga, your thoughts on this and also, hasn't
the NCA got a point here that even if to some extent your process
is people driven, parliament, that's the politicians still
make the final decision at the end of the day?
No that's not the position Violet. Let's start from
the very beginning. There is no single model for making a constitution
and it is not the identity or the institution which is of paramount
importance. It is what that institution does which makes the process
people driven or not. Let's look at South Africa . The South
African constitution was a constitution initiated and driven by
politicians. The ANC is a nationalist party but it is what they
did that made their process people driven and when you look at the
situation in Zimbabwe today there are no patriots and super patriots.
So there is not going to be any difference between a member of the
Select Committee and a member of the sub-committee because the aim
is the same - the people want to see to it that they come
up with a constitution which is representative of what the people
want. So nobody is going to make a decision on behalf of the other.
It is the people who make that decision. At the end of the day,
right at the end, there will be a referendum where everybody will
either endorse that document or will reject it, so it's simply
not true, with respect that there are persons who are going to make
decisions for others, no.
What is your view then on the NCA stance -the stance that the NCA
What I have said all along is the NCA is an organisation in Zimbabwe
which is free to state its views and I've also said, and I
say this honestly and earnestly that yes, we may disagree with the
NCA, I hope that at the end of the day we nevertheless find areas
of convergence. But that whatever differences we have with them
we must protect their rights to say what they believe in. And I
say again I hope that at the end of the day we will be able to converge
and agree on what we should do because this is the last opportunity
for the people of Zimbabwe . If we lose this opportunity, I'm
afraid that it may take quite a bit of time for another opportunity
to avail itself for this very same purpose.
Yes I think that I need to respond to some of the points that the
minister has raised. There are so many misleading points that he
is raising there. The first one is that the example given of the
South African process, it is not true that the South African process
was a politician driven, yes of course the politicians were involved,
but there are so many elements there. The South African constitution
in 1993, which was the interim one, there was no parliament then
at the time that interim constitution was adopted which then led
to the election of Nelson Mandela as President. That was the CODESA
process - yes there were political parties but there were
so many other South Africans who participated in that process.
And those South
Africans gave the South African parliament a list of principles,
34 of them, and parliament was then asked to make a constitution
in accordance with a set of principles made not by parliament but
others who included politicians. And then once the parliamentarians
had done it they were supposed to pass that constitution to a constitutional
court made up of 11 independent judges. They certified the constitution
and on the first point they rejected it and said; 'your constitution
does not correspond with the principles.' Then they had to
redo a number of areas and then after that certification.
no such thing as independent process here. The politicians move
from the select parliament process, parliament, then they have the
referendum where I am sure they will distort the campaign process.
So although we agree that ultimately really it's a question
of what the Zimbabweans say, we don't have to reach the stage
of referendum to determine what Zimbabweans think. I think the government
must be a leader enough, they must lead properly, and they must
govern properly by allowing that legitimate concerns of citizens
are taken on board. So if the Minister says well the NCA has a right
to say what it wants to say we will protect it but I think it doesn't
really auger well for good governance, for a government to throw
away a very clear point that the making of a constitution must not
be led by the government of the day. Matinenga is Minister today,
tomorrow he is out of government and so on and then the next person
is President, tomorrow they are out.
But if we create
a precedent to where those who are in government at a particular
time decide to use their popularity to bring about constitution
making processes then we might have as many constitutions as we
have new popular politicians and that is the point that the NCA
is making. I think we should try and accommodate a process that
has the consent of a large majority. I know that what the Minister
has not said which his party and those in Zanu-PF are saying is
that 'well the NCA does not represent many people, it has
a few people' and this is the argument that we had in 2000.
So we are going through the same cycle again because the only reason
why they are not listening, not even taking into account the concerns
we are raising, I think it's because as politicians they believe
they have the power and when it matters at the referendum they just
go to their rallies and say Vote Yes which is I think a very big
mistake. But the NCA thinks that it will be important for us to
reach some agreement. If we cannot we will definitely go for a No
campaign and then the people will decide
Your thoughts on this Minister Matinenga and also is it true that
you're not listening to your former allies, the NCA?
No that is not true. I have shared more than one platform with Dr
Madhuku. Dr Madhuku, the last platform I shared with him, declared
at the meeting that he was not going to be party to this process.
He has already staked his flag to the mast. And I said look, don't
close the door. But he said we have made a point as NCA and we are
sticking by this point. He actually said no matter how you people
want to persuade me, I'm not going to be party to this process.
So it's not true that we do not want to engage, we want to
And let me just
go back to the South African position, what happened in South Africa
, and I'm glad Dr Madhuku concedes that the interim constitution
was a political constitution, a constitution led by the political
parties. It is those political parties who then set the parameters
of how a constitution was going to be made. It is those political
parties who said it is the First Assembly which is going to be turned
into a constituent assembly in addition to a legislative assembly.
What we have in Zimbabwe Violet is a mini constituent assembly and
it arises out of the peculiar circumstances faced by Zimbabwe at
the time. So there is no difference and it is not true that people
are not going to be involved.
As he properly
said at the very beginning, Article 6 clearly provides people be
party to this process at the Stakeholders that they form part of
the sub-committees. It is up to the people to determine how many
sub-committees they want. It is up to the people to determine the
themes, the subjects which are going to be covered by those sub-committees.
It is not the select committee with respect. So I cannot understand
the position that 'well we are being sidelined.' Nobody
is being sidelined. We want everybody to participate and would be
glad if people really come up and participate because it is their
right and Article 6 makes provision for that.
Bearing in mind though of what happened in the past Minister, what
guarantee is there really that Zanu-PF will agree if right now you
can't even get them to get rid of the Reserve Bank Governor,
Gideon Gono? Will Zanu-PF really agree to a constitution that limits
their powers, for example?
Violet, you are in a political process OK? No matter what we would
have done, no matter what institution we would have set up, if the
feeling is that it is going to be sabotaged by Zanu-PF at a particular
stage, Zanu-PF will still do so. And my point is this we are now
in a different political matrix. You know that in 1979 when President
Mugabe set up this commission, President Mugabe was not obliged
at law to accept what that commission did or said or recommended
but this is not a position now. The position now is entirely different
and there is no ways that Mugabe can now dictate the other two political
parties and to the generality of the Zimbabweans as to what they
should do. Because when it comes to the constitution it is no longer
about the three political parties it is about the people of Zimbabwe
But when you say we are now in a political matrix and that things
are changing, to what extent are they really changing when even
on this programme earlier on, you couldn't answer why the
Minister of Information or the Press Secretary George Charamba actually
defied Prime Minister Tsvangirai's statement that journalists
do not need to get accredited, there's no need for accreditation
for journalists. So to what extent have things really changed?
Look Violet, we are coming from a situation where people had completely
different and differing mindsets. It's going to take time
to have those people singing from the same hymn sheet. I did say
earlier on, one would have wanted that things would have changed
for the better in a much quicker time but this is the situation
we find ourselves in and it's taking a bit of time but these
issues are being addressed and what we should really ask ourselves
is; do we really have any other option but to try to work within
these agreements and hope. Because if you continue talking, if you
continue talking and if you give yourself time to talk, sooner or
later you'll come to an agreement and that is happening in
And stay tuned for a continuation of this intense debate on the
constitution-making process with Constitution Minister Eric Matinenga
and NCA leader Dr Lovemore Madhuku. The frank discussion includes
the issue of the plan to divide Zimbabwe into five regions. Is devolution
a consideration for the constitution-making process?
Read Part 2
of this interview here
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