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  • Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga on Behind the Headlines
    Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
    June 24, 2010

    Following the 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?

    Lance 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 been happening.

    Eric 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.

    Guma: 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?

    Matinenga: 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.

    Guma: 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 on smoothly?

    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.

    Guma: 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.

    Guma: 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 Chinhoyi.

    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?

    Matinenga: 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 peacefully.

    Guma: Minister Matinenga, would you say perhaps we as the media are focusing more on the negatives than the positives?

    Matinenga: 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.

    Guma: 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?

    Matinenga: 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.

    Guma: 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, anytime.

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