Back to Index, Back to Special Index
This article participates on the following special index pages:
New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga on Behind the Headlines
Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
June 24, 2010
chaos, confusion, disruptions and intimidation that marred the beginning
of public hearings on a new
constitution, SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to
Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga. With reports that
over 200 uniformed soldiers in Karoi marched through the suburbs
chanting ZANU PF slogans, plus other reports of disruptions countrywide,
how will they ensure the delivery of a people-driven constitution?
Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to Behind the Headlines.
Any hope that public meetings meant to shape the content of a new
constitution would finally kick off smoothly, after the initial
administrative challenges, faded on Thursday as ZANU PF unleashed
its entire machinery to disrupt the process.
In addition, there have
been logistical and administrative issues which have created confusion
around the process. To help me get over this and explain what's
happening is the Constitutional Affairs Minister in the inclusive
government Mr. Eric Matinenga. I first asked him to explain what's
Matinenga: Look, it would have been abnormal not to ever
have these teething problems. In an operation of this nature, of
this extent, you always have a, this problem. I would be surprised
that people would have thought that this would have been similar
to day following night. It can't be. We are embarking on a
very extensive programme, we have been thin on resources and people
are trying to make the best out of very challenging circumstances.
So it is not something
which I did not anticipate but I must say that the people on the
ground, the members of the Select Committee, the co-chairpersons
are working their socks off in order to see that this process indeed
takes off. And I can say that in certain provinces, in certain areas,
the process has taken off commendably and thanks to their efforts.
Now Minister, Veritas, a Harare based organization obviously that
monitors legal and constitutional issues says it was unfortunate
that so many administrative details were left to the last minute
and they're pointing to a meeting held by COPAC in Parliament
on the 17th of June where there were still substantive disagreements
and many of those attending the meeting walked out. Is it not the
point then that a lot of this has arisen because there have been
more squabbles in this process than people actually agreeing on
what to do?
I'm not aware of the details of the meeting you refer to.
I'm not a member of COPAC so unfortunately I'm unable
to address your question substantively, but what I know is that
there may not have been, is that yes, there may have been disagreements
here and there but at the end of the day, one must act in accordance
with the common consensus and the common consensus, from the information
I got, was that we must proceed with the Outreach. If COPAC had
said that we should not, then we would have taken their advice and
we would not have proceeded with the launch of the outreach.
Now as we speak today we have been receiving various reports from
around the country from different groups; we've just received
one report from Crisis
Coalition in Zimbabwe that says meetings that were slated for
Chinhoyi did not take place as there were disruptions and similar
meetings in Bindura were rather chaotic with ZANU PF people chanting
slogans and reading from prepared scripts in terms of their positions
and this scenario seems to be replicated country-wide. How confident
are you then that given these reports that this process will go
Matinenga: Look, the
information which I have would appear to be different from what
you are giving me. Yes, I've been told that there have been
difficulties in Chinhoyi but I'm told that the difficulties
have arisen not on account of the explanation you give but on account
of ZANU PF saying that it is MDC which caused the disruption. I'm
not trying to apportion blame here but I'm simply saying in
a process of this nature and particularly in polarized provinces
like the one you refer to, you are always going to have this because
there is jockeying for power, unfortunately.
People simply have not
left their trenches. Their trenches from their respective parties
and mistakenly, they believe that this is the time to flex your
muscles in accordance to which party you belong to. But I've
spoken to a member of the said committee in Chinhoyi and he assured
me that they are going to hold a meeting in the afternoon at 3pm
today to be exact and he was confident that out of that meeting
they are going to forge one way forward.
I have not received the
reports containing, saying to regards to what has been happening
in Bindura. In fact funnily enough I was speaking to a reporter
about 30 minutes ago who had some very encouraging comments about
what was happening in Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East and
Manicaland. So sometimes it also depends on who you speak to but
I don't want to say that we don't have problems but
I am sure that the persons on the ground are keen to see that those
problems are addressed and that this process moves on and I'm
confident that the process will move on.
Now I have in front of me a statement that was issued by the MDC
led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, this issued from Harvest
House, it says more than 200 uniformed soldiers marched in the Chikangwe
and Chiedza suburbs of Karoi today. The soldiers were chanting ZANU
PF slogans and threatening to bring war to the doorsteps to those
who give a different view to that of ZANU PF in the constitution
consultation meetings. Clearly that presents a problem for you,
does it not?
Matinenga: No it does
not present a problem for me, it presents a problem for the inclusive
government. When this Outreach was launched, all the three principals
were present. All the three principals committed themselves to see
to it that this process is conducted in peace. I'm not aware
of the incident you refer to but I'm sure that the Prime Minister
would have been adequately briefed in order for him to have made
that statement. But I'm sure that as the Prime Minister having
received that report, he would be addressing that report at the
highest level so that this process goes on.
I do recall when the outreach was launched, the three principals,
or at least one of them I think, spoke about an all-party committee
that would be configured to try and deal with some of these incidents.
Has anything of the sort been put together because I heard MPs in
Chinhoyi saying they were going to refer this issue to the principals?
Matinenga: No, no, no,
no, no, I never said the Chinhoyi incident was going to be referred
to the principals . . .
Guma: No I'm saying
some of the MPs in Chinhoyi were saying that.
Matinenga: Again, I've
not heard that. As I said, the person I spoke to who is in charge,
in Chinhoyi there is Minister Chidhakwa and member of Parliament
Matamisa. I spoke to Mr. Chidhakwa who said they were going to invite
the political leadership across the broad spectrum and address this
issue and he assured me that from his assessment this committee
which he described as liaison committee will resolve the problems
In so far as the reference
you make to a committee of all political parties, that statement
was made within the context of addressing the issue of violence
generally, not necessarily for constitution making, but as I said,
if the Prime Minister has been briefed about this unfortunate, misguided
incident of soldiers, chanting slogans in Chikangwe and Karoi, I'm
sure that the Prime Minister has addressed that and he's going
to address that at the highest level.
I was with the Prime
Minister at a different meeting this afternoon, maybe about an hour
ago and he did not bring this aspect to my attention. I'm
not saying that he should have but I'm sure that the Prime
Minister is aware of how that issue should be resolved.
Guma: Let me slightly
go to Bindura and just point to you some of what we received today.
We were told that there was one meeting where you had MDC people
on one side and ZANU PF people on the other side, ZANU PF people
were chanting slogans and reading from prepared scripts in terms
of what their position is. I'm sure maybe as a Minister, you
will try and be diplomatic since you are part of the inclusive government
but surely, some of the events do suggest that ZANU PF is not interested
in a people driven constitution?
Matinenga: You know I
really am unable to comment or to be drawn to make a comment in
respect of the incident you describe because I simply have not received
a report on it and I therefore am unable, from your report, to then
seek to apportion blame. I can't do that.
Guma: Let me give you
another example maybe you might have heard - in Chivi North
there is an army major known as Major Badza, he's been threatening
villagers about expressing any opinion which is not in line with
the ZANU PF opinion. There have been several other examples in Manicaland
where you have members of the army who have been doing the same
threatening people and this is obviously something that has been
picked up a lot. How worried are you that at the end of the day,
maybe the views that you would have collected would not really reflect
what people really want to say?
You know I am not one to seek to pick on incidents and then to simply
make conclusions there from. Manicaland is represented by (COPAC)
co-chair (Douglas) Mwonzora. I wasn't in yesterday, he left
to go to Mutare today and yesterday he told me, and I sat with him
at the same table, he told me things were moving swiftly or smoothly
in Manicaland. In fact it was the first province where the outreach
had taken off and taken off smoothly.
Again today I was speaking
to this journalist I referred to earlier, he's been to Manicaland
and he tells me that look things are moving smoothly in Manicaland.
I have not as yet seen a contrary communication from Honourable
Mwonzora who is in fact in Manicaland as to the incidents you are
referring to. So I naturally have to act on the reports of the officers
on the ground in respect of what is happening. And it is only in
respect of those reports that I can take those reports before the
principals so that they recommit themselves to what they said last
week Wednesday and steps are taken to see that this process is conducted
Guma: Minister Matinenga,
would you say perhaps we as the media are focusing more on the negatives
than the positives?
I don't know. Maybe that is the information which you are
getting. Maybe you are but again I said I'm not in the habit
of apportioning blame because also we have received contrary reports
to what you are saying, so you know, everybody has got a different
way at seeing this issue (inaudible) but from what I have heard
so far and I dare say that the person who has been most negative
is yourself. What I have heard so far is that,- yes there are problems
but we are addressing them in regard to the challenges which we
knew we were going to face and which challenges we must nevertheless
try to overcome.
My final question for you, obviously Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday,
there have been administrative, logistical and other challenges
that you have had to face, for Zimbabweans listening in to this
programme, can you assure them that these have been resolved and
all the advertised meetings will go ahead as scheduled?
I want to say yes, but in a process of this nature you cannot have
a dividing line that on this line, this is what is happening, on
the other side of the line, this is what is happening. Again, let
me give you one example, OK? Not even one example but let me take
you back into history. On Sunday I called the meeting to be held
at the manager who is dealing with the resource and funding issue
at UNDP, where (COPAC) co-chairs Mangwana, Mwonzora, members of
the UNDP and members of the COPAC secretariat attended.
There were various logistic
problems which we addressed and we made certain recommendations
as to how these logistic problems should be addressed. On Monday
afternoon I think I was in a long conversation with the chief executive
officer of CMED, trying to impress upon him the need to release
motor vehicles and I dare say that after that lengthy discussion
with him he was agreeable to have those motor vehicles released
although payments had not been made immediately primarily for the
simple reason that when payment was demanded, it was too late in
the day and when one has to get the amount which was being requested
it was simply not possible to meet those payments.
There is the issue of
equipment, when I addressed this issue on Monday, I had been given
to understand that equipment will be ferried at least to some stations
on Sunday evening and on Monday but there were certain challenges.
Today I was speaking to co-chair Mangwana in Masvingo when the equipment
was actually delivered in Masvingo today, apparently some of this
equipment needed their batteries charged because it was equipment
which has been lying in certain storerooms, it was not realized
that batteries had not been charged.
So they were there to
charge those batteries, I was told it would take eight hours but
once again assured that look, we are all set, when this is done
we will be raring to go and that they will make up the delay which
has been caused by this logistic problem. So I'm confident
that these issues are being attended to and I again say that I'm
impressed by the manner in which people on the ground are prepared
to face the challenges they face and try to overcome those challenges.
That was the Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga joining
us on Behind the Headlines. Minister, thank you very much for joining
us on the programme.
Matinenga: You are welcome,
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.