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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles


  • Referendum delay body blow for Mugabe plan
    Faith Zaba, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
    November 03, 2011

    http://www.theindependent.co.zw/local/33011-referendum-delay-body-blow-for-mugabe-plan.html

    Zimbabweans may be required to vote in a referendum for a new constitution in May 2012 effectively derailing President Robert Mugabe's plan to have elections in the first quarter of next year.

    Mugabe is eager to have elections by March to end the shaky coalition government. He had initially hoped to have polls this year, but his plan collapsed due to delays in the constitution-making process as well as the slow pace in implementing political reforms required to end the country's decade-long political crisis.

    According to more revised timelines presented to President Jacob Zuma's facilitation team on Wednesday by Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora of the MDC-T, a draft constitution is only likely to be ready for a referendum between March and May next year.

    "I told them that there is no way we can have a draft constitution by March 30," Mwonzora told the Zimbabwe Independent soon after meeting with Zuma's International Relations advisor Lindiwe Zulu and Charles Nqakula.

    "With all things being equal, the draft constitution should be ready between March and May, but I think we will only be able to go for a referendum around May 30 next year."

    Zulu is said to have conveyed to Copac Zuma's grave concerns with escalating political violence engulfing the country. An official who attended the meeting said: "Zulu told Copac that Zuma was concerned with the prevailing environment, which is not conducive for free and fair elections.

    She said Zuma's concern is creating an environment for free and fair elections that are credible. She also reassured Copac that three people who were seconded to Jomic (Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee) will be here in a week or two."

    In terms of the Global Political Agreement signed by the three political parties that form the coalition government, the adoption of a new constitution is a pre-requisite for the holding of fresh elections whose outcome should be credible and acceptable worldwide.

    The other essential elements lining the roadmap to elections include electoral, media and security sector reforms. Other issues include a new voters' roll dealing with staffing issues at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the disbanding of the Joint Operations Command, a state security grouping that was reportedly behind the bloody presidential run-off poll of 2008.

    Mwonzora told Zuma's team that in spite of the serious financial and logistical problems facing Copac, they had made significant progress in the constitution-making process.

    Some of the achievements made so far he highlighted to the facilitation team included the selection of the three principal drafters and the seconding of
    17 members to the drafting team.

    The principal drafters are Botswana High Court judge Justice Moses Chinhengo and lawyers Priscilla Madzonga and Brian Crozier, whom Mwonzora said had the requisite skills in drafting laws.

    Crozier was the director of legal drafting in the attorney-general's office making him Zimbabwe's chief legislative drafter until he resigned in 2000. He also worked as a public prosecutor and legal advisor. Madzonga is a former High Court judge.

    The 17 appointees comprise five from each of the three political parties and two from the chiefs' council. These include University of Kent senior law lecturer Alex Magaisa, Zimbabwe Income and Pricing Commission chairman Godwills Masimirembwa, University of Zimbabwe political science lecturer John Makumbe, former Law Society of Zimbabwe president Joseph James, Women's Affairs and Community Development deputy minister Jessie Majome, former Matabeleland North governor and lawyer Jacob Mudenda, Advocate Happias Zhou, Advocate Matshobana Ncube, lawyer and MDC-T Chief Whip Innocent Gonese, lawyer and former Zimrights chairperson Kucaca Phulu and Advocate Archibold Gijima, among others.

    Copac has also come up with constitutional principles, a draft framework and a list of constitutional issues that should be included in the new charter. Some of the principles agreed on include sovereignty, security and protection of Zimbabwe from internal and external enemies as well as transitional provision and economic and social rights.

    On security forces, Copac agreed that "every member of the security forces and the forces as a whole must perform their duties and exercise their powers in the national interest and must not further or prejudice party-political nterests".

    Mwonzora said drafting of the new constitution should start on November 20, three months after it was scheduled to begin. The actual drafting is scheduled to take 40 days.

    According to the latest timelines, the draft constitution should be presented to an all-stakeholders' conference by January 30. Donors are presently not enthused to sponsor such a conference because they fear that it would be marred by chaos and violence similar to the first stakeholder gathering held in July 2009.

    "Donors are unwilling to sponsor the second all-stakeholders conference because it is likely to be marred by violence," Mwonzora said. Violence has escalated in the past few weeks around the country. Most recently, MDC-T and Zanu PF supporters clashed in Hatcliffe after Zanu PF followers allegedly disrupted an MDC-T meeting where Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone was scheduled to speak.

    Earlier this week, police armed with AK 47 rifles and baton sticks fired teargas into Harvest House and indiscriminately beat up people in the streets before sealing off Nelson Mandela Avenue, First Street, Angwa Street and Kwame Nkrumah Avenue near the MDC-T headquarters.

    Tensions are at boiling point in the shaky coalition government after police blocked MDC-T weekend rallies Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had been lined up to address. The rallies had been sanctioned by the High Court.

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