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After much ominous rumbling behind the scenes, the militants in Zanu-PF’s Politburo have finally spoken publicly about their reservations on the draft Zimbabwe constitution.
They have objected to some fundamental clauses which their own negotiation team agreed to after long, expensive and difficult negotiations with Zanu-PF’s partners in the coalition government..
Those coalition partners, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) and Welshman Ncube’s smaller MDC, have agreed to the draft charter, assessing it as a compromise and a “process rather than an event”.
Zanu-PF chief negotiator and Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa, speaking after the politburo meeting, said his colleagues “want to engage its coalition parties on national objectives and foundations”.
The militants mainly want the constitutional negotiators to revisit clauses relating to the appointment of provincial governors; the establishment of the constitutional court; the deployment of defence forces outside the country and the proposed restructuring of the attorney-general’s office.
The draft charter would stipulate that the powerful provincial governors, at present all active members of Zanu -PF, should be allocated instead to different parties in proportion to the parliamentary seats each wins.
Under that system, the MDCs, which won 50 percent of the vote at the last election in 2008, would have roughly half the 10 governships.
Zanu-PF had already agreed to that formula when President Robert Mugabe and the two MDC leaders signed the 2008 Global Political Agreement to set up the coalition government.
But Mugabe and Zanu-PF defied the agreement and appointed their own governors.
The present constitutional court is presently a special sitting of the Supreme Court, while the draft constitution says three more judges must be appointed to that bench which would serve for seven years.
Legal experts believe the extra judges would be more independent than most of the present clutch appointed by Mugabe.
Most judges appointed to the high court and supreme court are beneficiaries of white-owned farms and other wealth handed out by Zanu-PF to carefully chosen party favourites from 2000.
The draft constitution agreed to two weeks ago by a multiparty parliamentary committee says that the next president of Zimbabwe may not send troops to war outside the country without parliamentary assent. Zanu-PF militants object to this.
The last time Zimbabwe went to war was when Mugabe secretly deployed troops and the airforce in 1998 to rescue then President Laurent Kabila of the DRC. That adventure aggravated Zimbabwe’s already dire public finances although military officers reportedly profited from it.
Another objection of the Zanu-PF militants is that the Attorney-General’s office should be divided in two with a new independent national prosecuting authority.
The present Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, also received a free farm and is a partisan of Zanu-PF and has ordered the arrests of hundreds of MDC officials, including cabinet ministers and local councillors.
Several commentators who oppose Zanu-PF have also criticised the draft constitution for opposite reasons, saying it betrays important principles which launched the MDC nearly 13 years ago in opposition to Zanu-PF.
Zimbabwe lawyer and legal and constitutional analyst Derek Matyszak wrote last week: “The latest draft restores the unfettered power of the president to appoint service chiefs, representing a massive compromise by the MDC parties.
“In fact, the draft leaves virtually all of the vast powers vested in the president intact and little different from those under the current constitution.”
Dale Dore, a land analyst and human rights activist agreed, writing last week that the people of Zimbabwe should not be blackmailed into accepting “this rickety and leaky ferry” and should sink it if necessary “and start afresh with a sturdy and seaworthy vessel of state that can confidently withstand the constitutional gales and storms that lie ahead”.
Some commentators in the press have also dismissed the draft charter, saying it was a waste of the more than R360 million it cost to negotiate it.
Others, such as Education Minister David Coltart, part of Ncube’s MDC party, while lamenting parts of the draft and the “racial discrimination” over rural land said: “There is no other option” but to support the draft which should go to a referendum within a few months.
Negotiations for the draft broke down regularly and huge compromises were made, mainly by the MDC, not least in its acceptance of a lack of any substantial security sector reform.The iron grip which Zanu -PF has on the security forces is considered to be one of the main obstacles to real democracy.