Zim constitution process drags on

2012-06-21 09:07
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (AP Photo)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (AP Photo)

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Harare - Constitution drafters from Zimbabwe's rival political parties are this week combing through hundreds of points of contention, an exercise that is deepening the uncertainty over the country's future.

Officials crafting the charter are reviewing more than 200 issues, according to Paul Mangwana of President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party.

"Some of the issues where we are disagreeing are serious and some are trivial. In some cases it is just political posturing by certain individuals," he told local media this week.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change was blunter.

"They no longer want the constitution to provide for an independent prosecution. They no longer want a constitution which says the army should not participate in politics. They no longer want the devolution of power.

"In short, it's a rewrite of the whole draft constitution and departing from the views that came from the people during the outreach," said Jessie Majome.

Unity government

A new constitution is a key condition of reforms agreed in 2008 when Mugabe was forced into a unity government with his arch-rival Tsvangirai to avoid a descent into conflict after a bloody presidential run-off.

After three years of work, the process has yet to wind up, with a referendum of approval constantly postponed.

"Disputes over the drafting of the new constitution are likely to intensify, stalling the referendum and the likelihood of progressive legal and security reforms," said London-based risk analysis agency Maplecroft.

The main disputes centre on the devolution of power to provinces, dual citizenship, gay rights and the role of the military in politics.

Ordinary Zimbabweans contributed their thoughts during an outreach programme, "but there is an invasive proposal to change the draft coming from Zanu-PF," Majome said.

"They are proposing so many changes," she said.

Feuding on the charter comes on top of other political clashes.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti, a Tsvangirai ally, raised alarm bells last week after it emerged that the Mugabe-controlled ministries of defence and home affairs had gone on an unbudgeted recruitment spree.

Biti said the hiring of 4 600 army and 1 200 police recruits had created "serious problems", with food shortages in military barracks forcing the diversion of pension and customs funds to feed the recruits.

A meeting of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), which brokered the 2008 post-electoral peace, early this month told the country's political rivals to set specific deadlines for the completion of political reforms.

Facilitators from South Africa are expected in Harare next week to check on progress.


Completing the constitution would mark a crucial milestone toward elections to replace the shaky unity government.

Once the document is out, it will be translated into major local languages before going to a public conference for discussion.

Parliament would then debate it before it is put to a referendum. If approved, elections would soon follow.

With the haggling ongoing, elections are unlikely to take place before June next year, leaving Zanu-PF in an uncomfortable position, according to Dewa Mavhinga of the Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe, which gathers more than 300 civil society groups.

Mugabe, who has dominated politics for 32 years, is already his party's candidate.

He wants to exit the power-sharing deal as soon as possible - with or without a new constitution, while Tsvangirai insists that key reforms be implemented first.

"They (Zanu-PF) are investing in Mugabe as an individual and he is 88 years old, and they don't want to leave too many things to chance," Mavhinga said.

"Will Mugabe be able to campaign next year when he will be 89?"


Read more on:    mdc  |  zanu-pf  |  morgan tsvangirai  |  robert mugabe  |  zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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