After observing the proceedings in the run-up to, and during the just-ended Copac’s Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference held last month, the Zimbabwe Peace Project, Zimbabwe Election Support Network and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the Independent Constitution Monitoring Project (ZZZICOMP), considers it appropriate to express its preliminary observations on this national process.
Report by ZZZICOMP
ZZZICOMP notes that accreditation of delegates was decentralised to provinces and this assisted in speeding up the process of registering participants.
While there seemed not to be challenges with the accreditation of political party delegates from the parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), inclusivity of other political parties was questionable.
In addition, a high-level of political interference from all three political parties to the GPA was observed during the accreditation of civil society participants.
Although this was eventually (although not fairly) resolved, this adversely affected the ability of the civil society to adequately and independently prepare for and participate in the conference in a non-politicised and non-partisan manner.
It is necessary for both political parties and the broad civil society to disentangle themselves and understand their roles as this constitution-making process continues, failing which they will continue to do a disservice to the broader population, who have issues which may be peripheral to objectives and priorities of the three political parties in the government.
The accreditation of observers was centralised to Harare, however.
While international observers experienced no challenges with accreditation, local observation groups experienced considerable challenges, including a restriction on numbers of observers and an atmosphere of distrust and lack of co-operation by Copac staff, which was only resolved after the intervention of the three Copac co-chairpersons.
While ZZZICOMP had 420 observers registered during previous stages of the constitution-making process, this was reduced to two initially, and after negotiations, was raised to a mere 10 observers.
This proved to be a challenge for detailed observation of each thematic breakaway session and the general rollout of the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference.
Zzzicomp hails violence-free conference
The conference was held in a generally peaceful environment.
ZZZICOMP commends Copac and delegates for generally conducting themselves in a courteous manner that was free from the violence which characterised the first All-Stakeholders’ Conference held in 2009, in which some delegates and observers were assaulted resulting in a premature adjournment of proceedings.
However, ZZZICOMP still recorded incidences where some delegates resorted to intimidation, harassment, heckling and issuing verbal threats against other delegates, as they squabbled during the thematic breakaway sessions and for expressing dissenting views. Such an environment is hardly conducive to the expression of citizens’ voices and choices since it involuntarily induces fear. Whether real or perceived, fear muzzles freedom of expression.
‘Political differences must be set aside’
ZZZICOMP acknowledges the role played by the principals to the GPA, who through their remarks denounced violence and emphasised tolerance during the process.
This attitude could have had a bearing in exorcising the demons of violence out of some delegates.
ZZZICOMP regrets the initial boycott of the proceedings by Welshman Ncube’s party, as a critical constituency of this national process, but commends the Sadc facilitation team for its interventions to ensure their participation in the thematic breakaway sessions.
We urge all political players to put aside personal differences for the good of the country as we proceed to the final stages of the constitution-making process.
ZZZICOMP observers and those from other civil society organisations were subjected to some form of discriminatory screening by security teams manning the entrances before they could access the main Harare International Conference Centre auditorium despite presenting their accreditation tags to Copac personnel.
Incidents of coaching of party delegates by all three political parties in a bid to safeguard their political party aspirations were rampant. For example, pamphlets entitled: “Keypoints to note at the conference”, were parcelled out to some delegates and they constantly referred to or read from these notes verbatim during discussions on thematic issues.
The coalition government needs to be reminded that a constitution is not written merely for the generation that exists at the time of it being authored, but for unlimited and perpetual posterity and not for rulers who would be intoxicated with excessive power.
It is critical for Copac to provide clarity in this regard, so as to reduce tensions and opportunities for political manipulation.
Mindful of the provision in Article VI of the GPA, that the constitution-making process is not a political process, but a process for citizens of Zimbabwe, ZZZICOMP appeals to Copac to increase confidence-building measures in the process and publicly outline the roadmap that should finally lead to a referendum.