26. April 2009

Zimbabwe civil society opposes MDC on new constitution

The creation of a new Zimbabwean constitution is severely straining relations between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and its civil society partners, who are usually united by their opposition to President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF. A draft constitution was agreed on by Zanu PF, the MDC, and a break-away grouping led by Arthur Mutumbara, at a meeting in the Zimbabwean resort town of Kariba in September 2007. What has become known as the Kariba Draft paved the way for the Global Political Agreement (GPA) between Zanu PF and the MDC, signed on September 15, 2008, although the unity government it ushered in only came into effect on February 11, this year after months of political bickering. The Speaker of parliament, Lovemore Moyo, from Tsvangirai’s MDC, announced earlier this month that a 25-member parliamentary committee comprising legislators from the MDC, Mutumbara’s breakaway MDC and Zanu PF and would lead the process of writing a new constitution. "The historic inter-party political agreement places the responsibility of leading the constitution-making process on parliament and, more importantly, provides an opportunity for the country to create a constitution by the people and for the people," he said. The committee is expected to finish the process by 2010 and subject the new constitution to a referendum by July 2010.
Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), an organisation of labour movements, churches, business, human rights and civic groups, said the process should be driven by civil society, not politicians, and that they would begin campaigning for a "No" vote in the expected referendum in protest. "As the NCA, we reject the parliamentary committee that has been announced to lead the process of writing a new constitution. The process should be people-driven and not led by parliamentarians. "We will campaign against it and ask people to reject the flawed constitution during the referendum," Mr Madhuku told journalists. The NCA successfully thwarted Mugabe’s attempt to introduce a new constitution in 2000, giving Zanu PF its first electoral defeat since coming to power after independence from Britain in 1980. Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told a recent meeting of civil society representatives, "The Kariba Draft is not, and will not determine, the final constitution. The draft will only serve as a point of reference." The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU), the largest trade union federation and birthplace of the MDC, also condemned the fact that the new constitution would be written under the leadership of parliament. ZCTU secretary-general Wellington Chibhebhe said: "We have always stood by the belief that a constitution-making process should be people-driven and led by an independent body of people, and that position has not changed. If the process is not adjusted so that it is people-driven, then we will be forced to come up with a position to say ‘No’ to the whole process and outcome." (the east african)

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