SALC in the News: Zanu-PF Strategy to Stampede Coalition Partners

10 September, 2012

Bulawayo 24 News

Zanu-PF’s insistence on smuggling its amendments into the Copac draft constitution is a deliberate strategy to stampede the party’s coalition partners into an election before key reforms, a legal expert has warned.

The constitution-making process reached a deadlock after Zanu-PF re-wrote the draft constitution and threw away what were considered to be progressive clauses in the proposed new charter.
Mugabe will meet Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai today to try and re-negotiate the Copac draft.

But the MDC-T leader, whose party launched its “Vote yes” campaign for the constitution on Saturday in a referendum, has vowed never to re-open talks with his long time rival.

Anneke Meerkotter, a lawyer at the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC), in an analysis of the constitution-making exericise, said the logjam could be a culmination of a Zanu-PF plan to ambush its opponents into polls before reforms.

Sadc gave Zimbabwe up to June next year to organise fresh elections, whose outcome would not be contested.

“Everyone knew that the constitution-making process in Zimbabwe would be fraught with tension as the two MDC formations and Zanu-PF battle out the terms of the country’s constitution,” he said in the analysis posted on the SALC website last week.

“Much has been said about the futility of this process since Zanu-PF repeatedly indicated its eagerness to go into elections under the old constitution.

“But much can be said for the clever shenanigans of the Zanu-PF negotiating team which appears ‘hell bent’ on creating a deadlock in the process.”

Meerkotter said the move was illegal as it violated the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

“Of course, this flouted the entire purpose of democratic constitution-drafting and led to the MDC formations declaring a deadlock – thereby strengthening Zanu-PF’s argument for the need to go into elections under the current Constitution, exactly what they wanted,” he said.

The lawyer said the Zanu-PF strategy was expected, given the factionalism rocking the party.

“As everyone holds their breath to see what will happen, the deadlock is an ominous sign of a party in crisis, holding on to their power with determination,” Meerkotter said.

While the two MDCs have closed the door for further negotiations with Zanu-PF, legal experts have warned that a new constitution would be impossible without Mugabe’s cooperation.

“If Zanu-PF remains opposed to any draft but their own, the reality is that even if the MDC-T could garner enough support for a ‘Yes’ vote for the Copac draft (or their own draft), it would probably be pointless,” Veritas, a parliamentary watchdog wrote in an analysis of the draft.

“A yes vote in the referendum is not the final stage in the constitution-making process.

“The new constitution needs to be passed by two thirds majorities in both Houses of Parliament.
“Neither grouping alone has a two thirds majority in the House of Assembly nor the Senate.

“It is unlikely that MDC-T would persuade a two thirds majority to vote with them and then it has to be signed by the President (Zanu-PF) for his assent.”

MDC-T insists the Copac draft must be taken to the Second All -Stakeholders’ Conference in the next steps towards a referendum.

The Sadc Troika on Politics, Peace and Security will meet in Tanzania on September 7 and 8 to discussion the impasse on the new constitution.

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