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meetings on new constitution – Constitution Watch 13 / 2009
November 27, 2009
of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Advocacy Programme
Next week Minister
Eric Matinenga will commence a countrywide series of “advocacy
meetings” at provincial level. The Minister’s aim is
to reassure the public that the inclusive government remains committed
to the making of a new constitution, and to prepare the ground for
the Parliamentary Select Committee’s outreach programme, the
start of which has been repeatedly delayed. In each province the
Minister plans to address a meeting to which senior provincial officials,
community leaders and area NGOs will be invited, but all interested
persons will be welcome. The schedule for the Minister’s meetings
in Bulawayo, Matabeleland North and South and Midlands is as follows:
3rd December in the large city hall
Friday 4th December at the provincial offices
Thursday 10th December at the district offices
Friday 11th December in the Senga Hall
are from 9.30 am to 12.30 pm. The Minister will use the meetings
to explain what is happening about the new Constitution:
- the need
for a new people-driven constitution in accordance with the GPA
made to date
- the challenges
facing the process
- the time-frame
laid out in the GPA
- the need
for all Zimbabweans to participate in the process.
An hour will
be set aside at each meeting for the Minister to answer questions
from the floor.
for other provinces is not yet finalised.
Time Frame for Next Stage in Constitutional Process Not Finalised
like the establishment of the inclusive government, has been characterised
by delays, frustrations and lack of communication. The whole country
was geared up and excited about getting involved in drafting a new
constitution which was agreed to in the GPA [Inter-party agreement
signed on 15th September 2008]. Then there was an agonising 5-month
wait until the terms of the agreement translated into an inclusive
government being set up on 13th February 2009. After a delayed start,
the first two GPA deadlines were met [only just – see below],
but for the last few months, instead of good regular official communication
about what was happening over the next stage – the outreach
for public consultation – in spite of GPA deadlines having
come and gone [see below], all we have had are random and sometimes
contradictory press leaks. Civil society has been largely kept in
the dark, just as they were over years of “secret” inter-party
on 4th November the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary
Affairs, was asked to comment on the Select Committee’s failure
to keep to the time frame laid down by the GPA. He replied “Mr
Speaker, when the time frames were set out in the GPA, it was in
order to give the parameters in which the constitution making process
is going to be made. With all other political issues those issues
are not cast in stone. It is difficult to indicate that we are going
to able to write chapter one tomorrow and finish it because when
we visit chapter one it is quite possible that there are a lot of
other issues which arise out of writing chapter one. Roughly, what
I can say with some confidence is that when we look at the global
time which was made available, in case of the GPA, we are going
to endeavour to meet that global time.” By global time, presumably,
the Minister meant the final date for the process to be completed.
But if this is so, obviously some stages laid down by the GPA will
have to be compressed.
Since the Minister’s
statement there have been several contradictory statements [which
points the need for one official spokesperson]:
- Mr Mangwana,
the ZANU-PF co-chairperson of the Select Committee, has been quoted
in the press as saying that the public consultation would not
start until next year
- Mr Mwonzora,
the MDC-T co-chairperson, said last week he is optimistic that
the public consultation will start this month
- Mr Mkhosi,
the MDC-M alternate co-chairperson, has said it will start immediately
after Christmas and before the new year.
- An unofficial
report said that the delay would be even longer because of the
onset of the rainy season
- The Minister
of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs said It is true that
the problems caused by the commencement of the rainy season have
been raised, but this does not mean that the outreach proper will
be delayed until after the Christmas/New Year break. It must start
before then. But there will almost certainly have to be a break
to accommodate the ZANU- PF Congress [which will probably be in
the second half of December for about a week and will mean about
one third of the outreach personnel are unavailable for that period].
Article 6 of the GPA specified that the constitution-making process
would be driven by a Parliamentary Select Committee. This was set
up on the 13th April [the GPA deadline]. It consists of 25 Parliamentarians
and has 3 co-chairpersons, one from each of the political parties
that signed the GPA [see Constitution Watch of 2 of 14th April 2009
for names of Select Committee members].
All Stakeholders Conference [12th to 14th July]: the Select
Committee just squeezed in this conference to meet the GPA deadline
of 13th July, but unfortunately because of the preceding inter-party
disputes and last minute organisation the conference proved a disaster.
There was much mayhem, some speeches and lectures, but little actual
consultation with stakeholders.
this stage of the constitution-making process should have been completed
by 13th November [4 months after the First All Stakeholders Conference],
but has still not started, although it is an extremely important
stage, bearing in mind the GPA’s insistence that the new constitution
must be written by the people for themselves.
In the months both before and since the First All Stakeholders Conference
in July, the Select Committee and/or its co-chairpersons have held
many meetings. As disagreements between the three parties represented
could not be satisfactorily resolved they were eventually referred
to the principals for resolution. This resulted in giving the Minister
of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs more say in the process
and in the setting-up of more structures – a management committee,
steering committee and independent secretariat.
– this has met several times but, as it consists of the 6
GPA negotiators as well as the Minister and the Select Committee
chairs, it will probably not be meeting while the present GPA negotiations
are proceeding. This should not cause more delays, as this committee
was to set policy and actual management of the work is in the hands
of the steering committee and secretariat.
which consists of the chairs of the Select Committee, the Minister
and two civil society persons chosen by the Select Committee; it
is in charge of operations and has now had several meetings.
[Note: it is
very disappointing that there have been no press releases after
any of these meetings]
Secretariat, with separate premises outside Parliament to handle
administration and finance. Premises have been identified and staff
interviewed, but it the secretariat is not yet up and running.
for public consultation:
 were identified and chairing of these committees at last finalised
[although names have not yet been released].
numbers have been worked out to cover all wards and membership finalised
[again. names not yet released]
plan was prepared but it is now unlikely that its schedule can
be adhered to, as the whole exercise will be compressed into a shorter
are being prepared and will be finalised during the training exercise
outreach teams: trainers have been selected and have met to draw
up a training programme. Training will hopefully start this coming
of the many delays, the chaos of the First All Stakeholders Conference,
apparent disagreements between party representatives driving the
process and the monies already spent on meetings, this has been
a constant difficulty, but is now said to have been resolved.
of GPA Timetable
The GPA gives
the inclusive government a maximum of 20 months in which to complete
the various stages of the process. Article 6 specifies the time-limits
for each stage, starting from the date of inception of the inclusive
government [see below]. As article 6 was not incorporated into the
Constitution by Constitution
Amendment No 19, it is just an agreement between the parties
and, as the Minister has said, the timeframe “is not cast
in stone” and can be renegotiated.
13 April 2009
- Select Committee of Parliament to be set up [must be done within
two months of inception of a new Government]
13 July - First
All Stakeholders Conference [must be held within 3 months of the
date of the appointment of the select committee]
- Public consultation process complete [must be completed no later
than 4 months after the date of the first All Stakeholders Conference]
2010 - The draft of the Constitution must be tabled before a Second
All Stakeholders Conference [must be done within 3 months after
the public consultation process is completed]
13 March - The
Select Committee’s draft Constitution and its accompanying
report must be tabled before Parliament [the draft and report must
be tabled within 1 month of the second All-Stakeholders Conference].
Parliament has a month to debate the draft and report [presumably
13 April - Parliament
[i.e. both Houses] must conclude its debate on the committee’s
draft Constitution and report [within one month]. The draft must
be gazetted before the holding of a referendum [but timeframe not
13 July - A
referendum on the new draft Constitution must be held [within 3
months of the conclusion of Parliament’s debate]
13 August -
Gazetting of the draft Constitution as a Bill, if it is approved
in the referendum [it must be gazetted within 1 month of the date
of the date of the referendum]. What is to happen if the Bill is
rejected in the referendum is not stated.
13 October -
The Constitution Bill must be introduced in Parliament [presumably
either the House of Assembly or the Senate] [this must be done no
later than 1 month after the expiration of the period of 30 days
from the date of its gazetting]
No time limits
are given for what happens after the Constitution Bill is introduced
in Parliament – probably because, if Parliament passes the
Bill, the procedure for bringing the new Constitution into operation
will be laid down in the Bill itself.
The GPA does
not say what is to happen if Parliament rejects or amends the Constitution
Bill – although it is unlikely to do so if the Bill has been
approved at a referendum.
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