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Zimbabwe makes progress towards new constitution

Zimbabwe Makes Progress Towards New Constitution

Peta Thornycroft | Johannesburg  March 24, 2011

Despite a troubled start, Zimbabwe is making  progress towards producing a 
new constitution. There is broad agreement on most constitutional principles 
between the majority party in the legislature, the Movement for Democratic 
Change, and President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF party.

A key stipulation in the political agreement that brought the MDC and 
ZANU-PF into Zimbabwe’s coalition government two years ago was that a 
mechanism to draft a new constitution should be put in place.  This led to 
the formation of a multiparty Constitutional Parliamentary Committee that 
was to seek the views of Zimbabweans, at home and abroad, about a new 

The process stalled and deadlines slipped, evaporated and only resumed 
several months later when Mr Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC leader and 
prime minister in the inclusive government called on the public to attend 
consultation meetings to say what they wanted in a new constitution.

From July to October last year nearly 5,000 meetings attended by a million 
people were held around the country.   Most of those who attended were 
members of ZANU-PF.  One MDC loyalist died after being attacked at a public 
meeting in Harare and independent observers say other meetings were 
disrupted by ZANU-PF supporters.

Co-chairperson of COPAC Douglas Mwonzora, a lawyer and an MDC legislator was 
arrested last month and charged with public violence at a rally in rural 
Zimbabwe, released on bail three weeks later.  He denies the charges. 
Mwonzora told VOA he hopes there will be no further delays.

“Assuming that we get enough funding, secondly [assuming] that the MDC 
leadership in COPAC is not continuously arrested.  We have lost about a 
month because of the continued detention of an arrested person,” he said.

Paul Mangwana, also a lawyer and legislator is ZANU-PF’s COPAC 
co-chairperson.  He says Zimbabwe needs a new constitution because the 
existing charter was written in London in 1979 to end the liberation war.

“It became a compromise document to achieve a cessation of hostilities,” he 
said. “People were killing each other at that time, so people did not get an 
opportunity  to write their  own constitution, they were not consulted, it 
was simply imposed on them and it had some of the clauses which have led to 
the current problems Zimbabwe is going through.”

He says ZANU-PF and MDC have agreed on most key principals for a new 
constitution, including an executive president.  He said there was 
continuing disagreement about dual nationality.  He said no one in the MDC 
would oppose ZANU-PF’s campaign for black empowerment of Zimbabwe’s 

He said the MDC also accepted that ZANU-PF’s policy of land reform that has 
evicted about 4,000 white farmers since 2000 was necessary. He said the 
future tenure of the confiscated land still needs to be decided.

“Land reform has taken place and is irreversible,” he said. “The majority 
view, which has been arrived at, is 99-year leases transferable, which can 
be mortgaged with real rights, more like title deeds.”

Douglas Mwonzora agrees MDC and ZANU-PF  supporters broadly agree on many of 
the constitutional principles.  But he says there will have to be further 
negotiations on some issues before a new charter is drafted and presented to 
the public in a referendum.

“Most of the areas in  the constitution are  basically agreed, but there 
[are] a few contentious issues, the issue of land of course, the issue of 
the  executive presidency, the issue of dual citizenship.  All these are 
going to have to be negotiated and we have put in mechanisms for the 
negotiations,” said Mwonzora.

MDC legislator Eric Matinenga, the minister in charge of parliamentary and 
constitutional affairs, says public input for a new charter was more about 
current political differences than constitutional principles.

“For an example, do you want an executive president?  People were looking at 
constitution making through the political eyes of what the current situation 
was,” he said. “As MDC they will say we want a prime minister because they 
have got a prime minister in place.  ZANU-PF will say they want an executive 
president because they have got an executive president in place.  From a 
technical point of view there is not such a wide difference.”

Matinenga said Zimbabwe’s political crisis did not result because the 
present constitution is deficient nor because there are insufficient laws. 
He said the main problem was “malicious” application of the law. 
Human-rights monitors say the MDC has been persecuted by partisan police and 
misuse of the law since it nearly beat ZANU-PF in elections in 2000.

“If you go back to the past 10 years to the state-sponsored murders, it is 
not that we did not have the law, it is the application of these laws.  It 
is very sad,” he said. “What is really important is to change the mind-set, 
to change the culture.”

Mangwana said most Zimbabweans, led by the then-new MDC party, rejected a 
new constitution in 2000.  But he says the one being drawn up now is not 
substantially different to rejected charter. Mwonzora says a draft should be 
ready for a referendum by the end September.



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