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Second All Stakeholders Conference – Constitution Watch of
17th November 2012
November 19, 2012
Second All Stakeholders Conference
The Second All
Stakeholders’ Conference went ahead as planned on Monday 22nd
and Tuesday 23rd October. On the whole the Conference went smoothly
and the many predictions of chaos and violence, based on what occurred
at the First All Stakeholders Conference, were not fulfilled. This
was largely attributable to a drastic reduction in numbers allowed
to attend, better-organised accreditation of delegates and observers,
and good security arrangements.
of the Conference
opening of the Conference was on the morning of Monday 22nd October.
After a late start, there were speeches from Minister of Constitutional
and Parliamentary Affairs Matinenga, COPAC co-chairs Mangwana and
Mwonzora, Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara, Prime Minister Tsvangirai
before President Mugabe officially opened the Conference. As well
as the delegates, there were observers and invited guests from government
and from embassies.
The Prime Minister
said the party principals had all agreed that the constitution-making
process is being done in accordance with Article 6 of the GPA,
“which makes it clear that this is a Parliament-driven process
in which the Principals and the Executive must play a minimum part.
We have no intention whatsoever, at least on my part, to tamper
or meddle with the people's views.”
The COPAC co-chairs
gave an overview of the constitution-making process and the methodology
to be followed by the Conference in examining the draft constitution
[see next section]. They emphasised that the COPAC draft
was the focus of the discussions. The ZANU-PF re-draft,
incorporating the many changes to the COPAC draft called for by
the ZANU-PF Politburo, was not one of the Conference documents.
ZANU-PF delegates were free to advocate the changes ZANU-PF wanted
when commenting and making recommendations on the COPAC draft.
in his speech opening the Conference expressed differing views from
the previous speakers and said the work of the Conference was to
align the COPAC draft with the National Statistical Report.
He also made it clear he thought it should be the GPA principals
who should sort out any differences over constitutional content
that might remain after the Conference.
After the opening
proceedings, which took all morning, the delegates were divided
into eighteen breakaway groups, each group to consider one of the
eighteen chapters of the COPAC draft. The groups started their meetings
on Monday afternoon.
18 Group Meetings
In typical COPAC
fashion, each group had three co-chairs – one Parliamentarian
from each of the three GPA political parties. The groups were made
up of delegates consisting of members of the three political parties
and representatives of civil society. Accredited observers were
able to attend any group meeting.
the COPAC co-chairs briefing at the opening plenary, there was confusion
in some meetings about how to proceed, with delegates wanting groups
to make detailed textual comparisons of their allotted chapters
against the National Statistical Report. [This was probably sparked
by what the President had said earlier about the purpose of the
Conference.] But groups eventually settled down to going through
their allotted chapters in a more orderly fashion, with delegates
commenting on provisions in each clause, one by one.
As was expected
with representation from different parties, delegates in each group
were divided, with some supporting what the COPAC draft said and
others supporting what the ZANU-PF amended draft said, although
it was not an official conference document. Most of the latter quoted
the National Statistical Report to support their views. It was unfortunate
that there were very few copies of this report made available at
the Conference. Time in some groups was wasted by opposing arguments
on whether the National Statistical Report on its own was a reflection
of “what the people said” or whether other more qualitative
opinions should be given weight [which is what the COPAC draft did].
Audio and video
recordings were made of each group meeting, and rapporteurs noted
the delegates’ comments on each provision for purposes of
the group’s report to the plenary.
Back to Plenary
target was for the groups to complete work in one and a half hours
and report back on Monday afternoon, but that, unsurprisingly, proved
unachievable. Some groups completed their work late Monday evening
and others had to adjourn and resume early on Tuesday morning before
reporting back to the plenary meeting on Tuesday morning. The report
backs were given by one of each group’s co-chairs and were
of necessity brief, with no additional comments or questions from
either the members of that particular group or from other delegates
in the plenary.
What was reported
from each chapter was:
- Which provisions
in the COPAC draft were acceptable to all delegates
- New input
– suggestions for new additions or deletions to the COPAC
draft which were simply recorded but with no indication whether
or not consensus was reached on them
divergent opinions which were expressed on provisions of the COPAC
draft [usually as against the ZANU-PF draft] and no agreement
was reached on them in the group.
ended at lunchtime.
the whole the Conference went off fairly smoothly and at least there
was no repetition of the disruption that marred proceedings at the
First All Stakeholders Conference in 2009 and delegates were mostly
able to express their views, there were shortcomings:
arrangements - Late announcements of COPAC decisions on the Conference
timing and venue, and unavailability until the last minute of the
COPAC draft, left little time for preparation of serious non-party-directed
input at the Conference.
allocation of civil society delegates - There was an only partly-resolved
wrangle between COPAC and civil society organisations represented
by NANGO and Crisis in Zimbabwe over political party interference
in the allocation of delegates places for the organisations. COPAC
wanted the umbrella organisations NANGO and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
to give them lists of potential delegates from which the political
parties would make their selection. Those civil society delegates
applying through NANGO/Crisis were outraged at being politically
“paddocked” and asserted that they were independent.
Although an accommodation of sorts was reached when COPAC agreed
to allow them to select their own 200 civil society delegates on
top of the civil society delegates the political parties had selected,
this was still not entirely satisfactory, and NANGO and Crisis remained
discontented with the manner in which the matter had been handled.
There was still the problem that some organisations ended up with
too few delegates to cover satisfactorily all their areas of interest
when the plenary Conference broke up into separate groups to discuss
individual chapters of the COPAC draft.
input - Although they had little time to prepare and there was uncertainty
over their delegates, civil society had a last minute pre-Conference
Indaba convened by NANGO
on 18th and 19th October. Despite the problems, civil society delegates
attending the Conference managed to make their comments and recommendations
on the COPAC draft, and these were captured as part of the Conference
proceedings. The weight, if any, to be given to those views –
indeed, to any views expressed by delegates to the Conference –
is another matter entirely and can only be determined when the final
official Conference documents - While all delegates and observers
were provided with a printed copy of the COPAC draft constitution
on accreditation, copies of the other promised Conference documents
– the National Statistical Report and the collection of documents
that made up the instructions to the lead drafters – were
not freely available.
to breakaway groups not clear enough - The initial muddle in some
group meetings over how to proceed with their task indicated methodology
for conducting the meetings had not been clearly enough conveyed
to all delegates.
of chairing - Some meetings were well-chaired and orderly. For example,
the proceedings in the group discussing the chapter on Devolution
were dignified and well-mannered despite differing views being put
forward by delegates. Other meetings were rowdy and ill-disciplined,
with chairs having difficulty maintaining control.
for breakaway groups - The meeting places were not uniformly ideal.
Some meetings took place in the air-conditioned comfort of the Conference
Centre’s permanent committee rooms, but most were relegated
to temporary partitioned-off spaces that were neither big enough
to accommodate delegates in comfort nor provided with air-conditioning
in the sweltering October heat.
Minister Mutambara’s participation in the opening ceremony
resulted in Professor Ncube and his MDC party boycotting the occasion.
But thanks to intervention by the SADC facilitation team, this did
not develop into a boycott of the whole Conference, and MDC delegates
took part in the remainder of the proceedings. This issue should
have been sorted out before the Conference.
seized - An untoward incident occurred on day 2, when a ZANU-PF
delegate grabbed and disappeared with a video camera, objecting
to being filmed by a COPAC cameraman. A COPAC spokesperson reacted
promptly with a statement that the camera’s official record
of the proceedings in the group concerned had already been safely
secured. MDC-T representatives expressed concern that police officers
present during the incident had not intervened to protect COPAC
property and personnel.
of the Conference
of the Conference have ranged from “very successful”
[from COPAC] to “farce” [because it was a costly talkshop
that resolved none of the points that were in dispute before the
Conference] to “charade” [a continuing contest between
the parties in government instead of a process of objective analysis
of the draft] to “national tragedy of epic proportions”
[the National Constitutional Assembly, which has already committed
itself to campaign for a NO vote at the Referendum] .
Given that COPAC
had described the Conference’s terms of reference as being
for delegates to freely air their views on the COPAC draft and have
their comments and recommendations heard and recorded, the Conference
largely achieved its purpose. But it was largely a continuation
of pre-existing interparty disagreements over content, with “coached”
delegates putting forwarded prepared party viewpoints and it is
doubtful if new inputs will be considered.
In their preliminary
observations on the Conference, ZZZICOMP
[Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), Zimbabwe Election Support Network
(ZESN) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) Independent
Constitution Monitoring Project] observed that “coaching of
party delegates by all three political parties in a bid to safeguard
their political party aspirations” had been “rampant”,
and said it necessary to issue a reminder that “the Constitution
is not written merely for the generation that exists at the time
of its being authored but for unlimited and perpetual posterity”.
question, to which the answer is not yet apparent, is whether any
Conference input will result in the emergence of a better draft
to be put before the Referendum.
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