Constitutional outreach failed: negotiators

July 18, 2011 at 10:07 am Leave a comment
GPA negotiators have conceded that the constitutional outreach programme failed to address several key areas with MDC leader, Professor Welshman Ncube claiming that the final charter will, now, be a negotiated settlement between the political parties.

The outreach programme – a key part of the constitutional reforms – was aimed at gathering public views on the new charter.

However Ncube, who is a constitutional law expert, said the exercise only managed to capture no more than 20 percent of the issues needed to make up the new constitution.

“We were not prepared for the outreach programme. It didn’t follow what we had agreed in the GPA. We had not prepared for a different methodology and people ended up coming with skeletal talking points and those points do not address constitutional issues,” Ncube told a workshop held in Harare last week.

“If one looks at the things that were asked during the outreach programme, only a fifth of the things that are supposed to be in the constitution were asked.

Patrick Chinamasa of Zanu PF conceded that certain key areas had not been addressed.
“I appreciate there are vacuum areas where people didn’t say anything. Obviously a lot of people wouldn’t know who appoints judges, it’s done somewhere else,” he told the Herald newspaper.

“They also wouldn’t know the role of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe.”

MDC-T’s Elton Mangoma added: “obviously, when lawyers draft the Bill of Rights, they will do it from a legal view.”
But Mangoma and Chinamasa said Ncube was going ahead of himself in claiming that the final charter would be negotiated by the political parties.

Said Chinamasa: “At the moment we don’t know what he (Prof Ncube) is saying was left (out). We can’t move ahead of the (constitution-making) debate.

“After constitution analysis, we will look at what was left out by the people … then sit down and see what to do about them.”

Mangoma agreed that Ncube’s remarks were premature since the process was still underway.

“The constitution-making exercise is still underway,” he said.
“It will not be proper for us to say the constitution will be negotiated when it is still underway; in a way we will be wasting people’s time by engaging in this constitution exercise.”

Still, Ncube argued that the idea of a “people-driven constitution” was unrealistic and impractical workshop-talk insisting: “it can’t happen anywhere in the world because people have no clue of what should be in the constitution.

“If one looks at the things that were asked during the outreach programme, only a fifth of the things that are supposed to be in the constitution were asked.

“We have no choice but to negotiate the constitution to fill in the gap of areas that were not questioned during the outreach exercise.”

The drive to write a new constitution – a key part of reforms agreed by Zanu PF and the MDC formations – is behind schedule, delayed by lack of funds and quarrels between the political parties.

Analysts say it is unlikely the charter would be completed and a referendum conducted in time for elections this year, as demanded by President Robert Mugabe.

Ncube also revealed that arguments between Chinamasa and MDC-T Secretary General, Tendai Biti over time-lines for the exercise nearly became physical.
Chinamasa took the view that the process needed three years while Biti argued that 18 months would be enough. Biti’s argument ended up carrying the day.

“Chinamasa conceded to the 18 months but bet on his mother that it would not happen and look we are now over two years,” Ncube said.

“Some of us who have spent more time on constitutional issues knew Chinamasa was right. Even if we had taken representatives from the three parties, it wouldn’t have been possible to complete it in 18 months.”

The MDC leader added that the country would continue to rue the rejection of the 2000 draft constitution.
“We would have been better of with that 2000 (draft) constitution and I am sure no one can contend that the decision was correct then,” he said.

“That usually happens when emotions replace intellectual thinking.”


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