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  • Rules for our Rulers - Interview with Deputy Minister Jessie Majome
    Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
    February 01, 2010

    This week on Rules for our Rulers, SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to Jessie Majome the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs. Majome is the Chairperson of the Sub Committee on Information and Publicity in the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee and talks about the problems they are facing. She says as far as the constitutional process is concerned, the state media is deliberately giving ZANU PF's Paul Mangwana a dominant voice. She also says the media is being misled into giving negative publicity to the process when a lot of positive things are being done.

    Lance Guma: Maswera sei mhuri ye Zimbabwe and welcome to Rules for our Rulers the programme where we focus on Zimbabwe's road to a new constitution. My guest this week is the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Jessie Majome. Thank you very much for joining us Miss Majome.

    Jessie Majome: You're welcome.

    Guma: Now the road to a new constitution very bumpy indeed, several delays, reports of squabbling, as a member of the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee that's leading this process, COPAC, what's your assessment of the problems so far?

    Majome: The problems associated with this process I think are testimony of the fact that it's a very, it's a peoples' process in a way in that it is a process that has attracted a tremendous amount of interest which is exactly the way it should be. Zimbabweans have every right to take an interest in the process, to demand to know what is going on and also to air their views, even about the process itself and how the process should be run so the debate that is being generated I think in a way it can be seen in a positive light in that Zimbabweans are not apathetic at all to this very, very critical process.

    After all, in terms of Article Six of the Global Political Agreement which is what sets out the parameters of the reform process, Zimbabweans have a right and indeed a duty to participate in the process and that therefore also, we are sure that, that if they do so because Zimbabweans like any other societies they will not share, you know they don't necessarily share the same thinking on absolutely everything so there's bound to be very healthy debate and debate is absolutely healthy provided of course it then ends or culminates in the resolution of differences and also the perfection and the improvement of processes that are all very human.

    Guma: Why do we have a situation here where the delays have dominated this process? First we were told it was money and then it was disruptions at the Rainbow Towers and then one moment it was squabbling over the composition of rapporteurs, delegates being trained - it's been the dominant theme here - delay after delay - why is that?

    Majome: I think Lance you'll agree with me that a process that is as ambitious as this particular process where we, like the principals of the Global Political Agreement agreed that the process is going to be done by the people, it does not limit us, it is really open ended and wide ended and is actually designed for the maximum kind of input. It is open ended and a process that goes in that very nature will be quite, it will not be easy to manage because of the politics, one, the politics of Zimbabwe today of a tripartite government to start with that came out of a pact of reconciliation as it were and then even just the practicalities and the practical exigencies of managing a mass-based process, also again on a backdrop of a very extremely difficult economic situation where there is not sufficient, you know there is not sufficient money in the country to use for, even in the government to actually use for processes.

    It's you know, delays that have happened in the process I think can be explicable in this because of those particular facets. The process was not going to be easy. It is not easy and it is not going to be easy but I think what is encouraging is that in spite of all these difficulties and even the delays, Zimbabweans actually appear to be determined to ensure that this time round they write a constitution for themselves and they actually move away from the current state of affairs where we have a constitution that doesn't really serve the interests of, the wider interests of Zimbabweans and that is so badly patched and mutilated and damaged and that is not fitting.

    I think there's a famous American philosopher who is reported for having said that laws must be like clothes, they must be fit for the purposes, they must be made to fit the people that they serve and, you know and as such Zimbabweans absolutely determined I think this time round there's a sense of the necessity, almost a unified sense of, a consensus on the necessity of a new constitution now.

    Guma: Those listening to this interview, especially SW Radio Africa listeners will say here's the Deputy Minister trying to be diplomatic. A lot of people feel Zanu-PF is not interested in a genuine people driven constitution and are throwing spanners in the works. How would you respond to that?

    Majome: Look I clearly have no brief, I hold no brief for Zanu-PF at all but what I will say is that, you see the Global Political Agreement, whose Article Six lays out in very, very strong language and very determined phrases the necessity for Zimbabweans to write a constitution for themselves and by themselves was signed by three parties including the president of Zanu-PF who is one of the signatories, in fact I think one very critical and symbolic thing that I always, when I get the chance to speak, I like to refer to the fact that among the three signatories to the Global Political Agreement, the name Robert Gabriel Mugabe is the very first signature that you come across and then the other two principals are there.

    So like I said, Zanu-PF signed up, they signed up to this Global Political Agreement, they actually signed first and look, it is a contract, it is a deal, they signed it and all three political parties have a responsibility to fulfil the pact so like I said, I cannot say this, I know they signed it, they are signed up to it, they ascribed to it and they are, they are Zanu-PF members are also in the Select Committee like the other parties, the Movement for Democratic Change led by the Prime Minister and the Movement for Democratic Change led by the Deputy Prime Minister. They are party to the Committee so they are, and that is in performance of that particular, it's a contract that is being performed.

    Guma: Now Jessie, you are the Chairperson of the Sub-committee on Information and Publicity within the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee, in the media there has been a sense of picking up the fact that Zanu-PF's Paul Mangwana seems to be playing a very dominant role in as far as speaking out for COPAC. Is that something that other members from other parties are happy with because Zanu-PF seems to be getting the bigger voice in the State media?

    Majome: Indeed the issue of unbalanced reporting in the media of the constitutional reform process has caused, is great cause for concern for the Parliamentary Select Committee and indeed the sub committee on Information and Publicity which I am the Chairperson of. You know unfortunately it seems that this whole process can only be more or less even a product of its times, that we have in Zimbabwe today a media that is severely constricted, we are still the only, possibly the only country maybe in Africa, or at least in southern Africa that has only one electronic broadcaster, which is a State, government run media, which has existed and whose, which has existed for a very long time and conducted its business in a manner that is very partisan.

    And that is why even the three principals to the Global Political Agreement actually spent their time acknowledging this particular sad fact that in Article 19 of the Global Political Agreement there is a determination to enhance freedom of expression and communication but it appears that for starters the media space itself is still confined, we still have restrictions caused by AIPPA and also even by POSA and we even have State media and also by the Broadcasting Services Act where even appointments to various critical decision-making positions in the media are still appointed in manners that do not promote confidence as far as the issues of neutrality, impartiality and particularly a reflection of the Zimbabwe that we have today where the Movement for Democratic Change is also in government and the Movement for Democratic Change led by Professor Mutambara is also in government.

    The media has not, has been very slow if I can be very diplomatic there, they have been exceedingly slow to actually wake up to that fact and unfortunately that way of doing things is being reflected even in the constitutional reform process which is a process that has no, that actually has, whose leadership is not at all like the leadership of government with its outstanding issues and so on but that the process is suffering, it's suffering the unfairness of that, that whole manner of proceeding of the media is being very unfair to the process but more sadly it's being very unfair to Zimbabweans because if it continues, it continues to deprive Zimbabweans of information and communication that they deserve in order to give them, to make them ready to contribute in the process as they should.

    Because again as you see, Article Six of the Global Political Agreement says that the principals are determined to create conditions that are conducive for the people of Zimbabwe to make a constitution for themselves and a media that is partisan is clearly not, is clearly possibly the antithesis of conditions that are conducive for people to participate but we are encouraged because the Sub-committee actually met with the Ministry of Information and we expressed our concerns that we need to see the media, particularly the State media constricted though as it is, we need to start, Zimbabweans deserve and they have a right to see it projecting the issues in a national manner that is not partisan.

    We need to remind them that it's this process of the Select Committee is chaired by, there are three co-chairpersons that rank equally - there's Honourable Douglas Mwonzora from the Movement for Democratic Change led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, there's Honourable Paul Mkhosi who is of the Movement for Democratic Change that is led by Professor Arthur Mutambara and then there is Honourable Paul Mangwana of Zanu-PF and he is as much a chairperson as the other three chairpersons that we want to see, we were assured by the Minister of Information that they are going to actually start off understanding that and reflecting that reality that the Select Committee has no ranking, the parties there represent the parties in parliament and we have such equality that we don't even membership of the committees and even the outreach teams, we didn't even look at how many MPs came from the particular party, all the parties that are in the Select Committee are equal and we now need the media to start reflecting that.

    Guma: Talking about the media Jessie, I mean the latest reports are accusing the Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs Minister Advocate Eric Matinenga of causing the delays in the constitutional reform process, they are accusing him of entering into agreements with donor organisations without the knowledge and consent of Cabinet, I'm sure you have seen some of those reports saying he entered into an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme and this has caused friction between COPAC and others. Would you like to comment on this? Is this the correct reflection of the situation?

    Majome: You know I would like to say Lance, the Select Committee is a committee that sits and makes decisions by way of resolutions and it also takes positions by way of resolutions. So far this particular issue has not been brought to the Select Committee and I want to think that if the Chairperson is speaking I think he must be expressing his own opinion which I'm sure he's entitled to . . .

    Guma: This is Paul Mangwana from Zanu-PF?

    Majome: . . . He's a member of parliament, as a member of parliament and as a Zimbabwean, he's entitled to his opinion because he clearly it's his democratic right to express himself in a manner that he wishes to because, but I think it's important to state that the Select Committee itself has not been seized with that particular issue and it has not, as far as, because I was at the very last meeting, I do not recall it being on the agenda or even a debate about that particular issue, even being that we were being informed about that particular issue because the chairpersons that we have are not executive chairpersons, co-chairpersons of the Select Committee, they chair the Committee and the Committee is the Select Committee in terms of Article Six is the one as a whole that is designed to spearhead the process.

    Now of course subject to the leadership of the Management Committee, to the Steering Committee which the Honourable Paul Mangwana sits with the other co-chairs as well as the Management Committee which is sitting with the other co-chairs including the other players from the Executive including the negotiators of the various political parties so like I said, he's entitled to his opinion.

    Guma: OK we have another problem. We are being told Zanu-PF has launched a parallel outreach programme for the constitution making process and they're designing this in such a way that they coach people to come up with a constitution similar to the Kariba Draft, in fact we are told Vice President Joyce Mujuru launched this programme somewhere in Mount Darwin. Are you familiar with this?

    Majome: I want to say again Lance that you know as I indicated earlier, I hold no brief from Zanu-PF as I shouldn't so I cannot speak on behalf of Zanu-PF but what I will say is that you see it's important for Zimbabweans and others to remember that, to remember and pay attention to the fact that this particular process of writing the constitution in terms of Article Six is an open-ended process, by the way Zimbabweans are free to give their views to the outreach teams when they come, so clearly I think it is a democratic, I think more or less facility for whoever holds any particular opinion about any particular maybe aspect of the constitution.

    Lets say even the death penalty, I am for example personally, I personally am against the death penalty and if I feel strongly enough that the constitution must not have the death penalty it is actually my right and my duty as a Zimbabwean to campaign and mobilise and advocate to others and to lobby so that others can share my view so that when the time for the outreach programme comes, hopefully I might have persuaded, hopefully clearly democratically and peacefully and respectfully if I would have persuaded others to also speak and say that they don't want the death penalty that is perfectly permissible because it's a political process after all.

    Each particular party, each particular individual, organisation is free to lobby provided they do so of course within the dictates of democracy that it does not intimidate in any manner designed to intimidate others or to coerce others but clearly effectively it is really a campaign.

    Guma: OK but the problem there obviously Deputy Minister Majome is that we know how Zanu-PF operates and we are already covering stories of Zanu-PF militia being deployed in the countryside and basically intimidating people into voting for the Kariba Draft should the referendum come up in coming months?

    Majome: But the Kariba Draft is not going to be brought to the referendum so that's the other important thing for Zimbabweans to note, so if there's anyone who is going around the country . . . (inaudible) . . . in the name of the Kariba Draft, they need to really save their energy, they're wasting their time and that in any event, the long arm of the law will actually catch up with them ultimately, however long it may take because it is unlawful to threaten anyone or to cause violence to anyone because, and even the Kariba Draft is not going to go to the referendum. What will go to the referendum is very clearly spelt out in Article Six of the Global Political Agreement and I want to quote it here because I think it's one of those things that are misunderstood because generally the Select Committee is meant to receive views, hold public hearings and such consultations as are necessary for a constitution and then we take those views down and then it is the Select Committee to table its draft constitution to a second All Stakeholders Conference.

    Please note that it says its draft constitution, it doesn't say, it says that, it's clearly the draft constitution of the Select Committee which therefore is one that will come from the views that are actually stated by the people. It doesn't say that it will table the Kariba Draft to a second All Stakeholders Conference. I think people who are saying this, might I think, have not read, have not had the chance to read what Article Six says and I think that is why we need programmes such as this, programmes such as this in the media to actually educate and inform Zimbabweans about exactly how the process is unfolding.

    We need the private media, we need also ZBC and the State run papers to also even just give Zimbabweans accurate information about how the process is run because there is insufficient information going out there and also clearly if we do so we will be creating conditions that are conducive for the people of Zimbabwe to make a constitution for themselves as we have a right and duty to do.

    Guma: There have been other allegations that members of parliament and senators are really trying to milk this constitutional process in terms of allowances. We are told donors nearly pulled the plug on funding this process after the political parties insisted on increasing the number of MPs from about 50 to include almost all 300 legislators in the lower and upper houses of parliament. I did speak to Douglas Mwonzora and he was saying that the idea was to have a wider reach in terms of accessing remote areas. Was this increase justified?

    Majome: As indicated Lance, this is a mass-based process where that is open-ended that requires all Zimbabweans to participate in the process and you see, you know the dynamics, the political dynamics of it and the human resources dynamics of such a wide open space, a wide open process, you know are quite challenging. I actually do not know of any country in the world that has gone about writing a constitution in this manner that is so inclusive and so open-ended and because of that other processes, other countries just like, if you remember Namibia, Namibia simply came up with a committee of, a small committee of wise men and women who drafted, who were a technical drafting team and they sent it to a referendum and other countries,

    Even South Africa's very reputable constitution did not even go through such a process that is as involving of the public as this and even if we go to Uganda, absolutely everywhere, even Zambia that's also going through its process much smaller committee, so you know, this is all about negotiation and accommodation and actual robust debate because it involves, there are so very many stakeholders and it is really so open-ended and there will be difficulties surrounding the limited resources on the one hand and the very, very ebullient expectations of Zimbabweans to be accommodated because you know there are so, everybody wants to participate, everybody wants to be at the table which is absolutely healthy but again it will also then also cause other difficulties as far as the process finding its feet about reconciling on one hand, the need to feel that there's been absolute inclusion and on the other hand managing it within the limited budget that we have.

    You know it's a process, it's not going to happen in one day but COPAC is absolutely determined I think as you know to actually proceed with the process and to work in a manner that shows inclusivity and to work through these particular difficulties and to negotiate so that we actually get to a common understanding and we actually proceed because at the end of the day we can't go with everyone for outreach. It's not possible, you know we are going to find our feet and strike a balance and actually proceed in a manner that is realistic in terms of budgetary constraints but also in terms even of management point of view, it's not, you know it's so that we can have processes that can be managed in terms of the numbers even but at the same time carrying the confidence of Zimbabweans that they have been given the chance to participate.

    Guma: OK we are running out of time but final question in terms of this process, after all the squabbling have all the main issues been sorted out and can you reassure Zimbabweans that this process is now back on track?

    Majome: You see the process was never off the track, that's what I think is important to remember because there was a lot of alarm in the media about it having stopped and so on, this is where in my capacity as the Chairperson of COPAC's sub-committee on Information and Publicity I'm appealing to the media to actually walk with us, to actually come and find out with us and find out exactly what is going on because it is a peoples' process because there was a lot of misunderstanding and a lot of alarm bells going off when it was actually sometimes the media is very powerful in the way that it uses words. If you use the word, imagine if you use the word suspended which was used that the process has been suspended it totally means something different from the way that the outreach programme has been delayed.

    And so the media, with respect to the media I think they can do so much more because they, the media also has a duty, it has a duty to allow Zimbabweans to encourage Zimbabweans to write a constitution for themselves and they actually, the media in particular is one of the key players in the struggle to create conducive conditions that are conducive for people to participate for themselves. So the process has not stopped, the outreach process is the one which had been delayed, it could not happen at the time that had been agreed because of these very necessary but difficult steps to actually reconcile the economics and the politics as well as the emotions and the expectations that Zimbabweans rightly have.

    Guma: That was the Deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs Jessie Majome joining us on Rules for our Rulers. Thank you very much for joining us Deputy Minister.

    Majome: You are welcome.

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