HARARE – Battle lines have been drawn between former allies — MDC formations and civic society — as the country hurtles towards a constitutional referendum set for March 16.
Daggers were out at a recent emotive public debate in Harare organised by Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition to allow parties to the power sharing Global Political Agreement and civic groups to explain why people should vote yes or no at the referendum.
The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), Munyaradzi Gwisai’s International Socialist Organisation (ISO) and MDC 99, which seem to have suddenly emerged from the woods, took a dig at their former allies in a no-holds-barred tirade arguing the new draft is not any different from the Lancaster House charter.
The groups are now agitating for a rejection of the draft crafted by a committee of Parliament commonly referred to as Copac.
“We will not support an undemocratic document. It retains the imperial executive presidency, president ‘wemasimba ose’ who appoints all Cabinet ministers and most senior State, military and judicial officials and can unilaterally change laws, dissolve Parliament or declare war.
“I wonder why our comrades in the MDCs are supporting such dictatorship where the death penalty is abolished only for men over 70 years just to protect Zanu PF people who committed atrocities against the people. I was facing the death penalty for watching the Egypt video and the Maengahamas of this world and some among the Glen View 29 are rotting in jail,” charged Gwisai.
This was quickly quashed by Copac co-chairperson and MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora, who argued that the draft was a much better document compared to the current Constitution.
Mwonzora, supported by Zanu PF and the other MDC formation representatives; Psychology Maziwisa and Qhubani Moyo respectively said those pushing for the rejection of the draft were out of touch with the aspirations of the generality of Zimbabweans.
“It is not true that we are giving people half a loaf as claimed by one speaker here. We as a party are actually delighted that neither we nor our coalition colleagues got all they wanted during negotiations and if you add up what we got it becomes a full loaf for Zimbabweans.
“People will overwhelmingly vote for this document because its contents though compromised, by and large represent an incremental gain for democracy,” Mwonzora said in apparent reference to remarks by Mavambo leader Simba Makoni that Copac had given people half a loaf when they needed it full.
Comments by Women’s Coalition chairperson Virginia Muwanigwa that women groups across the political and civil divide were generally happy with the draft exposed the divisions within civil society, which could scuttle their chances of successfully lobbying for the rejection of the draft.
MDC 99 president Job Sikhala however, took offence with the draft charter citing a clause that recognises values of the liberation struggle saying it would be used against presidential aspirations with no liberation history.
“I will not vote for this constitution for the simple reason that it gives the president unlimited power and the fact that it forces us to respect the ideas of the liberation struggle is particularly unpalatable because the phrase will be used against some of us who were too young to participate in the war but still harbour presidential ambitions.
“Campaign for your ‘Yes Vote’ using tax payers’ money and we will campaign against it on our bicycles and we will meet at the ballot,” said Sikhala to thunderous applause from the crowd.
Clever Bere of the NCA’s “Take Charge” team tasked with rolling out the “No Vote” campaign warned that people will be giving away their power permanently by adopting the draft constitution imposed by political parties.
Bere said the new charter unnecessarily creates a bloated government at a time the economy is bleeding and for that reason it should be rejected.
“While the size of Parliament has been increased, it remains weak even with a total of 355 MPs.
“Parliament remains a mere talk shop where politicians are just creating employment for their supporters at the expense of the people. There is no provision for compelling the State to allocate a specific minimum percentage of the nation’s revenue to deal with needs of the poor,” Bere said.
Copac is currently rolling out an ambitious programme to educate the people on the contents of the draft before the referendum, which is just three weeks away.
Thousands of translated copies are currently being printed and distributed and opposition political parties have been given 50 each after they had written to the parliamentary body asking to be part of the exercise. – Mugove Tafirenyika