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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles


  • Why arrest monitors
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    July 06, 2010

    " . . . it is complete rubbish . . . if the constitution making process is a prerogative of political parties then they could as well have done it on their own using their party registers beginning as ward level and come up wit a joint inter-party constitution. The constitution making process is a public process which must be monitored and reported by any Zimbabwean who has interest in a transparent and democratic constitution making process, regardless of political affiliation" Professor John Makumbe

    Observer teams deployed by civic organizations, including the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) under the ZZZICOMP banner, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) to monitor and report on the ongoing Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) outreach exercise have come under threat of arrest by the committee.

    COPAC representatives have taken turns to lambast and rubbish any independent monitoring reports, which come out. Worse still, COPAC has instructed police to arrest any observers during meetings. COPAC's co-chairperson, Mr. Paul Mangwana was quoted in The Sunday mail of 04 July 2010, under headline "Bogus COPAC monitors on the loose" calling for the arrest of the monitors for allegedly threatening to derail a legitimate process. Apart from the threats of arrest, the co chairs took turns to attack the monitors for allegedly undermining the constitution making process by advancing foreign interests, masquerading and peddling falsehoods.

    The role of the civic organizations in this process is to keep Zimbabweans, the regional and international community informed on the outreach process so as to assess the transparency and credibility, otherwise, of the final document that will be put to a referendum as stipulated by the GPA. Article 6 of the GPA stipulates that the process must be conducted in a free and transparent manner. It is also the role of civil society to identify emerging gaps in the process and compliment COPAC.

    One of the main gaps identified by the monitors so far has been the information gap. People especially in rural areas seem either unaware of how to participate, or have been intimidated into not participating under an operation code named "Chimumumu", few people are selected to speak during the hearings, with the rest being an audience of dump people-"Zvimumumu". Civil society has responded by undertaking civic education programmes with the sole aim of educating Zimbabweans on what the process is about, addressing issues of intimidation and how best they can have their views and aspirations heard during the public hearings.

    The threats of arrest to monitors in clear contravention of the Zimbabwean constitution which allows for freedoms of movement and expression. Instead of attacking civil society players, COPAC should find ways of making the findings of the monitoring teams and their civic education programmes useful. The monitoring and civic education programmes by civil society organizations can be incorporated into the broader constitution making process. It is particularly sad to note that the co-chair, Hon Douglas Mwonzora from the MDC T, which has always advocated for a people driven constitution making process is actually advocating for the accreditation of monitors, yet it is the right of each and every Zimbabwean to observe such a process freely. It should be noted further that Mr. Mangwana's comments that only ZANU PF and MDC have a prerogative to comment and monitor the constitution making process are not only misleading but unfortunate.

    Quizzed on the call by the political parties, political analyst and University of Zimbabwe lecturer, professor John Makumbe said that the constitution making process is a public process and legally there is no way the police can arrest monitors since they have not committed any offence. Asked if the three political parties were the custodians of the constitution making process he responded;

    If the constitution making process is a prerogative of political parties then they could as well have done it on their own using their party registers beginning at ward level and come up with a joint interpaty constitution. The constitution making process is a public process which must be monitored and reported by any Zimbabwean who has interest in a transparent and democratic constitution making process, regardless of political affiliation".

    Another political analyst Dr. Ibbo Mandaza also said that the people of Zimbabwe are the custodians of the constitution making process and parties have no monopoly over commenting or reporting on the proceedings of the outreach exercise. If COPAC is conducting a truly people centred and democratic process, the committee should operate in a transparent and accountable manner which allows for scrutiny instead of rubbishing efforts by civic society to assess and report on the process of the constitution making process.

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