This could be a huge victory for other parties who have always accused the security sector of being biased towards Zanu PF and have called for security sector reform.
Irene Petras of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights said what had to be taken into consideration was that the new constitution should serve the nation not the interests of an individual or party.
According to a leaked Copac management committee document, the parties, led by both formations of the MDC, said they felt Zanu PF was abusing the security forces and their independence had to be guaranteed by the future constitution.
“All arms of state must uphold the constitution, respect human rights, be non-partisan and professional,” reads the 24th principle the Copac committees agreed to.
This principle also applies to civil servants, as it was agreed that top government workers became embedded in party politics, and this tended to compromise their work.
Already, the MDCs and Zanu PF are embroiled in a debate on the term of police chief, Augustine Chihuri, which expired and they want to be consulted before President Robert Mugabe makes a decision on extending the police boss’ tenure.
The MDCs have often accused the police of being too close to Zanu PF instead of following their constitutional mandate.
“What that principle entails is that police, for example, should be able to disobey unconstitutional instructions,” an insider says.
“In recent years police have taken unlawful actions such as ignoring High Court orders and effecting illegal detentions.”
He gave examples of the detention of Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s Office, Jameson Timba, MDC leader Welshman Ncube, who was detained by police officers on his way to a rally, and the number of rallies that the police had disrupted.
The 22nd principle also seems to buttress the impartiality of the arms of state, as it reads: “All arms of state to uphold the principles of democracy and good governance.”
Copac co-chairperson, Douglas Mwonzora of the MDC-T, said the issue of security sector reform was cast in stone and there was no going back, with regard to the new constitution.
“They (Zanu PF) tried to contest, but we looked at what the people said during the outreach and that is what they wanted,” he said. “So they finally agreed.”
Mwonzora said it had been agreed that the army, police and state security organs should be non-partisan and professional.
On a parallel matter, in the road-map to elections which Zanu PF and the two MDCs are negotiating, Zanu PF had so far declined to broach the subject of security sector reform.
Mwonzora’s counterpart, Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana, said while the 26 principles had been agreed on, they were not cast in stone, but they were just guiding principles for the new constitution.
“Organs of the state serve the whole country, they should operate within the realms of the constitution,” he said.
Mangwana said they were still reviewing the draft, which they would soon make public.
Among some of the principles agreed are the devolution of power, decentralisation and upholding the status of traditional chiefs.
Copac also agreed that the new constitution should “contain mechanisms of redressing colonial imbalances in the distribution of natural resources, including land”.
But Zanu Pf may backtrack
But observers are wary that Zanu PF may backtrack on the provisions, considering that the party had opposed security sector reform in the past.
“That is the challenge,” Petras (pictured) said. “It remains to be seen whether they want to be true to the principles of constitutionalism.”