No Earth Shattering Changes To Draft Constitution: Crisis In Zimbabwe Coalition
Harare, January 19, 2013 - Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition says there have been no earth shattering changes to the draft constitution finalised by the principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA) on Thursday.
The organisation said this after meeting the Constitution Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora of the mainstream Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) on Friday.
The following is a full statement issued by Crisis Coalition Zimbabwe after the meeting with Mwonzora entitled "How the constitution strings were finally tied together:
Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition met COPAC co-chairperson, Hon. Douglas Mwonzora, who revealed the full details of the agreement reached to finalize the COPAC Draft constitution at the Crisis Offices on Friday, January 18, 2013.
The meeting was attended by the Crisis Coalition Director McDonald Lewaneka and Programs Manager Nixon Nyikadzino. Hon. Mwonzora apprised the Coalition’s Officers on the agreement reached on the 7 key deadlock issues. The agreements are contained in a signed Drafting Instruction which has been given to the drafters who, the Co-Chair said, are now in the process of finalizing the draft constitution. Hon. Mwonzora informed the meeting that they expected the final version of the draft constitution to be out in a week, and latest by end of January 2013, ready for presentation to Parliament in February, with possibilities of a Referendum on the Draft Constitution in April.
After the meeting, the interim assessment of the Coalition is that there seems to have been no earth shuttering changes to the July 18 draft, and that most accommodations made, were unfortunately accommodations meant to allays political party fears rather than address the peoples aspirations. The process, only has meaningful credence in as far as it allowed the out puts of some fairly democratic discussions at the 2nd All Stakeholders Conference to be discussed and incorporated into the final draft, albeit with Politicians and Political party leaders as the final arbiters on the matters.
The COPAC co-chair shared the following as the final agreements on the deadlock issues (paraphrased), with the Coalitions interim comments where it was felt necessary. Extensive comments will be sought from the Coalitions members and Experts and released in due course.
All Clauses on devolution will be as in the COPAC draft constitution released on July 18, 2012, with the changes being the following:
A preamble to explain what devolution does not incorporate or imply.
The office of Governor has been done away with to be replaced by a Head of Provincial Council, who will be elected by the full council from the list provided by a party with the majority in the council.
The provisions on devolution while short of what would have been ideal, are welcome as a good platform to build on for the future. Better than other more abstract concepts, which had been placed on the table like Delegation and Decentralization. The absence of direct democracy in most of how this devolved state is going to be put up, and the absence of a Provincial Government still means that there are gaps, that were created as a result of the compromises, but gaps, which may be lived with.
2. National Prosecuting Authority
There will be an Attorney General and a National Prosecuting Authority as in the COPAC draft. The change is that the transitional provision will work for six years instead of the previously proposed seven years.
The separation of these two functions is a welcome development. The only rub here, has to do not with the provision but with personalities involved in the offices during the Transitional period. The assumption, one would guess is that the Current Attorney General will take up one of the office, possibly the NPA leadership for the transitional period. Given reservations around the partiality of the current office bearer this leaves a foul taste in the mouth. However, the provision introduces a limit to the term of the office bearer, which was not the case before.
3. National Peace and Reconciliation Commission
There will be a constitutional body for 10 years after which an Act of Parliament may decide to perpetuate it. The difference is that the provision in the draft Constitution of 18 July 2012 used the word “shall” instead of “may.”, and the period for the existence of the constitutional body had been shorter.
4. Executive Authority
Executive authority will be vested in the President and he/she will exercise it through Cabinet. The COPAC draft said the executive authority will be vested in both President and Cabinet.
5. Land Commission
The commission will be an executive body which will be under the Minister responsible for Lands, but in order to avoid executive arm twisting the commissioners will have security of tenure. The commission will be empowered to carry out the Land Audit to ensure the “one person one farm principle.”
In spite of the safeguards put in place, the commission would still have been better off as an independent Constitutional Commission. The compromise made is reflective not of best practice but the fears of some parties to the state at the moment.
6. Running mate
The running mate provision will remain the same, but will be coupled with a transitional provision that ensures that it will not be immediately implemented, but will come into effect after five years.
The transitional provisions are a “get out of jail free card” for the current political leaders, who will not have to deal with the messy issues of succession in their parties at this stage in full view of the country’s citizens.
7. Constitutional Court
The constitutional court will remain part of the constitution and there will be a transitional provision to have the Chief Justice Four Supreme Court and three new judges sitting on the court for seven years.
The transitional arrangements here are also reflective of fears rather than best practice. The inclusion of this court in the constitution would have offered an opportunity for a fresh start with independent judges. Part of the challenge of this provision will be the absence of a meaningful vetting exercise that is backward looking to ensure that Judges to this court have not been complicit in bastardising the constitution or engaged in some dishonorable conduct while on the bench in the previous dispensation. The absence of this vetting process will mean that it is possible for bad apples from the past to be transported into the new dispensation. There is also the challenge of ‘double dipping’ by some judges who will be on bother the Supreme Court and Constitutional court benches.