ZIMBABWE’S constitution-making process is on Monday expected to go a gear-up with the convening in Harare of an all-stakeholders conference.
Our News Editor Constantine Chimakure on Wednesday caught up with the co-chairperson of the parliamentary select committee spearheading the process, Douglas Mwonzora, at Parliament Building in the capital to explore how far the process has gone, the problems it is encountering and the controversial Kariba draft. Below are excerpts from the interview.
Chimakure: Give us an update on the first all-stakeholders conference?
Mwonzora: First, the all-stakeholders conference will go ahead as planned. There were concerns raised mostly by our colleagues in Zanu PF through their caucus and these concerns are that the conference must be attended by everyone who must attend and that there was no adequate time for the invitation to reach those people in the remote areas.
The complaint on the part of the two MDCs was that we should under no circumstances as a select committee vary the global political agreement (GPA). Therefore, we should stick to the timeline as given under the GPA. For that reason we have a cut off date, being July 13, so any extension must fall within that prescribed timeline. Having set down as chairperson of the select committee together with the administration of parliament headed by the speaker we then agreed to extend the date of the conference to July 13. Delegates will arrive on July 12 and on the 13th of July and half of the 14th of July we will hold the conference.
Chimakure: Before you go any further, are you saying the conference is now going to take one and a half days instead of the initially planned four days? Why the change?
Mwonzora: The conference itself was supposed to take one and a half days. The days we were including to make them four were arrival and departure days.
The decision to move the conference to July 13 was a fair compromise. We need to strike a balance between the concerns of Zanu PF that everyone who should come, and the concerns of the two MDCs of not going against the GPA.
Chimakure: How were the delegates selected?
Mwonzora: The delegates were selected using the provincial consultative assembly attendants. At the provincial consultative meetings we asked our secretariat to get a record of the stakeholders who came, these were various organisations and individuals.
In order to come up with the national representation, we looked at organisation which had a national representation as obtained during the consultative meetings. We had to look at organisations with a regional representation and we also had to look at individuals with special endowments like special experiences, which will be helpful in the constitution-making process or special qualification.
Having done that we then divided the stakeholders into 23 categories —— labour, youth and students, farmers’ organisations, religious organisations, informal sector, NGOs, freedom fighters, business, disabled, political parties, traditional leaders and healers, arts and culture, children’s organisations, media, local authorities, academia, parastatals, residents and ratepayers’ associations, government arms, sports organisations, minority organisations, professional boards, women’s organisations and development agencies.
From these organisations we then allocated a quota for each organisation by way of percentages. All in all we are inviting 4 000 delegates and we looked at, at the representativeness of the organisation. We also looked at the proportion of each organisation to the population of Zimbabwe and using that we then allocated percentages of the delegates, for example, the organisations that deal with the disabled will have 2%, students and youths 4%, business organisations 3%, traditional leaders 2%,Â traditional healers 0,4%, media 2% and academia 1%.
Using these percentages we are then able to determine the absolute number, then apportion these numbers to each organisation following in each category looking at the size as far as we could determine.
We are aware that that this is not very, very mathematically correct, but it is the closest to mathematical accuracy.
Chimakure: Is the constitution-making process well financed given reports that your committee wanted US$36 million, but was cut by the executive to US$19 million? Also shed light on reports that the executive, especially the president’s office, is against the donor-funding of the process.
Mwonzora: Regarding the financing of this process, the finances are going to come from the treasury as well as from international donors. The select committee simply does a budget, presents that budget to parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders and it takes the matter up with the executive and the donors. That coordination at that level is not a concern of the select committee, but the realities of the Zimbabwean situation should always be borne in mind, that is Zimbabwe as a country is broke and relies heavily on outside donors.
It is possible to get money from donors without any strings attached.
What is of importance is that the president’s office —— through the Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Misheck Sibanda — acknowledged that part of the funds are going to come from the donors. That is why Dr Sibanda wrote a letter to us sometime ago clarifying how the money from the donors are going to be coordinated. That is an acknowledgement that donor money is important.
Chimakure: Are you saying there is a change of heart by some elements in government, especially from Zanu PF, who were insisting that donors may end up influencing the process and its outcome? During the joint Zanu PF and the two MDC formations’ caucus meeting on Monday, Zanu PF MPs even objected to the invitation of South Africa’s Cyril Ramaphosa to come and address the conference on the grounds that he would influence the process and ultimately its outcome. What do you say to that?
Mwonzora: Firstly, there is nothing wrong with donor money. It is a reality that Zimbabwe has to live with and that responsible members of parliament must live with. Zimbabwe has no money and requires outside help and that is why cabinet has taken positive steps to woo international donors.
These donors do not interact with the select committee but interact with the executive and the administration of parliament. So, if they are to influence anyone then it would be the executive and not us. Some MPs do not appear to understand the concept of sovereignty. Sovereignty does not mean international isolation; it simply denotes the independence of nations when they make national decisions.
Chimakure: The Ramaphosa issue?
Mwonzora: Media reports on Ramaphosa were very unfair. The select committee had expressed a wish to invite him as one of Africa’s most distinguished lawyers and constitutional negotiators. Also, he is from Sadc and importantly from a country that has dealt actively in Zimbabwe’s recent history. However, no invitation had yet been dispatched to Ramaphosa at the time the MPs made their utterances. I do not agree that this is a Zanu PF position. This is an individual MP’s position. I say so because I have had sight of the Zanu PF caucus resolution made on that day and the resolution does not talk of barring outsiders.
The issue is people must avoid talking in double tongues. At one time we people purport to expouse Pan-Africanism, on the other hand they do not want to invite successful Africans. That does not make sense. We must borrow from African wisdom.
Chimakure: Your committee has made several pronouncements to the effect that it will not use the Kariba draft constitution as a reference document. Why was the document then acknowledged in the GPA when my understanding is that the constitution should have been enacted before the March 2008 harmonised elections, but Zanu PF later reneged on that undertaking? Why not acknowledge other drafts crafted before the Kariba one?
Mwonzora: The Kariba draft does not bind the select committee. This is because according to Section 6.1 sub-paragraph 4 of the GPA, the select committee together with all those involved in constitution-making must come up with their own draft. It is in black and white. Had the negotiators intended us to bring an amended version of Kariba, that section should have stated that.Â Whether the Kariba draft will be used as reference, the answer is yes together with all relevant draft constitutions. That is why we are going to mass produce the Kariba draft, the NCA draft, the Zimbabwe we want, the rejected Constitutional Commission draft as well as the draft produced by Fodesi under Margaret Dongo.Â The status of the Kariba draft is that it is one of the documents that will be availed to the people of Zimbabwe. It is up to them to accept it or not.
Chimakure: Why was it then acknowledged in the GPA and are you suggesting that President Mugabe is wrong by insisting that it should be the reference document?
Mwonzora: It is important to understand that acknowledgment does not mean adoption. The Kariba draft is the only document, of all these drafts, signed by the parties. It is important to note that Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC-M do not represent all the people of Zimbabwe and therefore it is unfair to the people of Zimbabwe to impose their draft on them.
Chimakure: Mugabe insists that the Kariba draft is the reference document as agreed by the three political parties?
Mwonzora: President Mugabe is a skilled negotiator and my reading of what he said is negotiating. He knows that there is Section 6.1, therefore, what he may want as a leader of Zanu PF may not be what Zimbabweans want in general.
Chimakure: But Mugabe reportedly told his central committee a fortnight ago that if the Kariba draft is not used as a reference document, Zanu PF members should vote against a new draft constitution once it is tabled in parliament. Don’t you see the danger of Zanu PF sabotaging the constitution-making process at the last minute?
Mwonzora: No, because once the referendum passes the new constitution it is not to parliament to reject it. But of course politicians may try to circumvent the will of the people. This they will try whether the constitution has been spearheaded by the select committee or by the civil society, but they do so at their own peril and there are ill-advised in doing that. My personal plea to President Mugabe will be to respect whatever comes out of the referendum.