HARARE – Zanu PF and the two MDC formations in the fragile unity government have struck a deal on the stalled draft constitution raising hopes that a referendum can finally be conducted.
The new deal addresses areas of conflict contained in the Copac-authored draft.
These include the running mate clause, the setting up of a prosecuting authority, whittling of executive powers, establishment of a constitutional court and a national peace and reconciliation commission as well as the setting up of a land commission.
The Parliamentary Select Committee (Copac), the body that has been driving the sluggish constitution-making process since 2009, completed a draft in June last year and handed it to principals; President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC) and Welshman Ncube (MDC).
Zanu PF rejected the draft.
A source close to the tripartite negotiations said the ball is now in the Cabinet special committee’s court as Copac co-chairpersons, Douglas Mwonzora (MDC), Munyaradzi Mangwana (Zanu PF) and Ncube led MDC’s Edward Mkosi managed to reach an agreement.
At the behest of Mugabe, a special Cabinet committee led by Eric Matinenga, the minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs was formed in order to iron out the sticking issues.
“The smaller committee of Copac has been meeting during the Christmas holidays to try and iron the outstanding issues.
“The committee, which is made up of the co-chairpersons of Copac, has managed to narrow the areas of conflict and report the same to the Cabinet special committee,” said the source.
“The Copac committee managed to unlock all the outstanding issues and we will be giving the Cabinet committee our proposals.
“We have retained devolution but there will be a preamble to that chapter which addresses fears of those who are against devolution.
“On the issue of running mates, we have come up with two proposals, one will be to retain the clause as it is and the other will be to put the clause in the draft and then make transitional arrangements on how to incorporate it in relationship with the forthcoming elections,” said the source.
Both Zanu PF and MDC have been uncomfortable with the running mate clause in the current draft, which requires presidential candidates to pick up their running mates during elections.
But fears are high that Mugabe’s long absence as he holidays in the Far East, might cripple government operations including the completion of the draft constitution which has been hanging in limbo since June last year after his party, Zanu PF, made widespread amendments to the initial draft.
Thirty issues were tabled for discussion among the three political parties.
After protracted negotiations, the committee has been able to whittle down the outstanding issues, sources say.
Matinenga said “there is work in progress”.
“We are going to meet this week but I do not have a specific date yet,” he said when asked about the latest developments in the draft constitution process.
“We do not discuss such issues in public,” says Matinenga.
In the latest deal, all the three parties appear to have compromised.
For instance, on the issue of establishing a prosecuting authority to replace the office of the Attorney General, Zanu PF seems to have won as it forced a transitional provision from the Attorney General to the Prosecuting Authority which will take a massive seven years.
While the presidential imperial powers have been curtailed through a provision which says executive authority shall vest in the president “who shall exercise it through the Cabinet”.
Both Mwonzora and Mangwana refused to comment on the latest developments.
Sadc, the guarantors of the shaky coalition government and other political parties, regard the completion of a new constitution as key to holding free and fair elections.