Tuesday, 3 January 2012

COPAC’s constitutional reform by disputed mathematical reports.

COPAC’s constitutional reform by disputed mathematical reports.
By Takura Zhangazha*
The political parties in the inclusive government are generally not known to be scientific or mathematical in their approach to our national politics. Except of late when it comes to the constitutional reform process that is being controversially led by the Parliamentary Select Committee on constitutional reform (COPAC).

On Friday 23 December 2011, the same committee issued what has turned out to be a disputed national report on its findings. In this now disputed report, there are percentage figures that are given on various ‘thematic issues’ based on what are assumedly the findings of the donor driven and politically partisan constitutional outreach process.

This is done by explaining the percentage number of people that agreed to a specific constitutional theme such as whether government executive authority should be vested in the presidency or the prime minister’s office. In this there is the very technical assumption of ‘let the mathematics do the politics’. By dint of the same, this would also mean that we have entered the somewhat unforeseen political phase of the inclusive government’s  ‘constitutional reform by mathematics’. Or to borrow an American phrase,  a ‘do the math’ narrative of constitution making. 

As expected the MDC-T has disputed the veracity of the ‘math’ as presented in the report. In a statement issued just after Christmas, the MDC T strongly refuted the report and  stated that it is not privy to it as a member of COPAC. (The other MDC has via its representative indicated that it to has problems with the report). This essentially means that whoever drafted the report probably has to re-argue the veracity of the same to a now clearly divided COPAC leadership.

Also not to be outdone is the leader of the Zimbabwe National War Veterans Association, Mr. Jabulani Sibanda who has all of a sudden come out shooting from the hip accusing the COPAC drafters of refusing to record what he considers the correct views of the ‘people’. This is to be expected, probably not only from the war veterans but even among the members of COPAC and the GPA principals themselves.

Because some people are curious at the actual contents of the report it would be necessary to outline some of its ‘findings’ in relation to their political import. The report has various thematic areas that it covers by percentage of people in support of a specific clause or item in the constitution. The most politically significant items include that of the claim in the report that close to 80 % of the respondents desire the retention of the executive presidency with the same sort of figure appearing in relation to issues of elections of the president and his/her powers. Approval of having a prime minister is low as it hovers around the 20-30 percentage range in relation to the post as well as its potential powers.

Another clearly politically controversial finding is that which relates to transitional mechanisms in government in the event that a president is incapacitated. Close to 50% of respondents indicated that they would prefer the Vice President to take over, an issue which might be deemed to fit into the problematic succession issue for Zanu Pf.

Other clauses that are significant to measure in the report include the thematic area on land that gives a figure of 63% saying that land reform is now irreversible and another figure of 71 % saying that there should be 99 year leases for landowners and not title deeds. In this, the argument is that the state should own all land that was taken under the land reform programme (73%).

In relation to elections there is a surprising 61 % that would like for there to be a ‘hybrid’ system of ‘first past the post’ and ‘proportional representation’. That is an issue that would most likely lead to a lot of political contestation and politics by literal mathematics in how parliament will be constituted if it is allowed to pass. Another contentious element of the report is that which states that 52% of respondents rejected dual citizenship, an issue that will have a bearing on the Diaspora which has been clamouring for it to become a reality.

There are many other elements in the report that remain controversial but the key political ones are the ones I have attempted to outline above. One would need to separately deal  with issues of women, youth and the bill of rights in a different article in order to do justice to them.

This initial analysis of the disputed COPAC report however indicates that its main ‘results’ retain the current executive authority in the presidency an issue which fits in snugly with what are broader Zanu Pf policies, succession challenges and objectives in their current form. These include matters such as the irreversibility of the land reform programme, the rejection of dual citizenship, the maintenance of the same sort  of powers for the president and the introduction of an electorally convenient ‘hybrid system’ of first past the pot and proportional representation.

And this is probably why the MDCs are disputing this report. It barely takes into account their own policy perspectives. As a result and once again the country’s citizens will watch from the sidelines as the political parties and their principals slug it out as though this were a high school debate, and not a national political process.
*Takura Zhangazha writes in his personal capacity and this article first appeared on http://takura-zhangazha.blogspot.com/. Please acknowledge this.