BY NQABA MATSHAZI
POLITICAL parties in the coalition government could still use their positions in parliament as a self-preservation tool ahead of elections, as they can use their numbers in the legislature to veto the draft constitution, analysts have said.Zanu PF has already expressed its disquiet over a number of issues and is yet to endorse the constitution or publicly state its opposition to it.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has already endorsed the draft constitution and has urged members to vote for it in the forthcoming referendum.
The Welshman Ncube-led MDC has already warned that it will not brook any alterations on the draft and it wants it to go to the referendum as it is.
University of Zimbabwe law lecturer, Greg Linnington said since there was no party with a majority in parliament, any of the parties could vote against it and this could see the draft failing.
“This is not morally right but it is legal,” he explained. “They could disregard how people vote and make changes when it comes before parliament. Parliament is not bound by the referendum.”
Linnington gave an example of the 2000 draft constitution that was rejected but still vast swathes of the document were still passed into law through parliament.
“Ultimately, the people don’t have a say, parliament has the final word,” Linnington, who has published works on constitution, said.
Already there are reports that President Robert Mugabe Mugabe and Tsvangirai met to discuss the clauses that they did not like in the draft, amidst claims that the principals have a final say on the new charter.
But Ncube, a constitutional law expert, dismissed this as untrue, saying it was impractical to have two people deciding and vetoing discussions on behalf of an estimated 13 million citizens.
“If you look at the GPA, there is nowhere in that document where the word ‘principal’ is mentioned,” he said on Wednesday.
“So we cannot have the so-called principals deciding on behalf of 13 million people.”
More compromises are highly likely
Effie Ncube of the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda said since this was a party driven exercise, there was likelihood that the parties could reach further compromises.
“We are likely to see parties negotiating and reaching compromises and negating what the people would have said,” he said. “It begs the question why we bothered with collecting people’s views when a few people can chop and change the views that were gathered.”
Ncube said since there were reports that Mugabe and Tsvangirai were already consulting on the outcome of the draft, it was an indication of the inherent weaknesses of a party driven constitutional reform exercise.
The political analyst conceded that the constitution was a self-preservation exercise with Zanu PF engaging in the exercise to either maintain its grip on power or to make sure that it had immunity in the event that it lost the elections.
On the other hand, MDC-T has already indicated that the new constitution was a transitional document and it will start the process anew once it ascended into power.
The party’s spokesman for Harare province, Obert Gutu told a political briefing at the Institute for Democracy in Africa (Idasa) in South Africa recently that his party would not stick with the new draft.
Hardliners in Zanu PF want wholesome changes made to the draft constitution because, among other things, it curtails presidential powers by distributing some of the executive powers to parliament.
The draft constitution also makes major reforms to the office of Attorney General, constitutional commissions, state security and intelligence services, departments which had been pillars of Zanu PF’s political survival.