- Last Updated on 18 September 2012
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Over the course of the last two weeks and especially the week that has passed, the issue of the Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's "Nuptials € to Elizabeth Macheka has been the most dominant media and indeed public issue. Without rekindling that popular discussion and debate, I am glad that it is now behind us. I am glad that this is behind us because, instead of serving as just a moment of great celebration for the re-entry of our Premier into to the institution of marriage (which a friend of mine calls a program for the Stabilisation of Adult Personalities), it has served amongst other things, as a fruitless distraction from pertinent national questions. While the Prime Minister was priming himself for his corrective moral (and eventual defiance) act, and the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) were allegedly rolling out their plan to disrupt that big day, there were several things of national significance and of consequence to our lives, taking place.
Not least amongst these, was the climb down by ZANU PF, in the middle of the dust and the smoke, to agree to go to the Second All Stakeholders Conference with the COPAC Draft of July 18 2012, on condition that the National Report will be tabled at the same conference. The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC T) was quick to come out with a retort that welcomed the climb down, but not on the condition stated - of tabling the National report. Again, setting up the Second All stakeholders Conference as a no holds barred political showdown. In any other country, this would not be an issue, people differ all the time, and they negotiate their differences and come up with compromise solutions that allow everyone to emerge a winner. Heck, in most democratic societies, people actually understand that there is no democracy without compromise. NOT in Zimbabwe. It is clear that because of the tenor of discussions and proceedings so far, that if a clear set of conditions and rules are not abided by, the Second All Stakeholders Conference, can easily turn into a blood bath of tremendous proportions.
The only way that this can be guarded against is through the firm and committed agreements by stakeholders to the process on a clear modus operandi at the conference. Without this, the Second All Stakeholders Conference may just be another waste of not just money, but also valuable time.
Like any other democratic process, the Second All Stakeholders Conference must be subject to predictability of process, with clear objectives and outcomes articulated and anticipated. Just like in sport, the rules of the game need to be clear before the game actually takes place. We can't make them along the way without every foul being turned into a penalty. The obvious handicap stems from what the Global Political Agreement (GPA) does not say more than what it says with regards to this key part of the process of Constitutional Reform. It states the following:
"The draft constitution shall be tabled within 3 months of completion of the Public consultation process to a second All Stakeholders Conference €.
Given our experience from the First All stakeholders Conference, this vagueness is less of a blessing than it is a curse. It is a litmus test on the commitment of political leaders to putting the country first and ensuring that a clear way of operating at this conference is determined in a way that moves the country forward - not backwards.
In my humble opinion the following need to be considered seriously by Zimbabweans and COPAC in planning for the Second All Stakeholders Conference, as key imperative for success:
1. Clear time frames. This has been a constant malady with regards to the Global Political Agreement. There are claims to be following a Road map to elections, whose date is not known, and now, there are agreements and preparations for a Second All Stakeholders Conference whose date is not known. The Second All Stakeholders Conference must be allowed to set a new tone in the conduct of Political business through ensuring that the dates and timing of it are not the preserve of political elites. All Stakeholders need to plan for it not just ZANU PF, which on the 14th of September had its Commissariat structures holding a mobilisation workshop on how to present the party position at the Conference. Or the MDC T, which called its structures to launch a "Yes € Campaign for a referendum whose date is not known to the public.
Transparency around these key process starts with breaking down the monopoly of information by Political actors on the timing of key processes. If they too do not know, then it is time to set these key dates up, starting with the electoral timetable and timetable for reforms, with the dates of the Second All Stakeholders Conference being amongst the key markers. We have already discovered that the state of confusion and disorder that is sponsored by uncertainty is exactly what Andreas Schedler meant when he talked about disorder being seen by politicians as a 'valued horizon of attainment', not a 'feared horizon of avoidance'. But this must stop, in order for us to move forward, order must be the order of the day.
2. An inclusive dialogue on how to have a truly transparent and beneficial process: The Second All Stakeholders Conference, unlike other elements of the Constitution Making Process is a multiple stakeholder process, which includes interests and parties beyond COPAC and political parties. Discussions and plans for it and the Modus operandi should be an inclusive process that allows representatives of a cross section of Zimbabweans to be part of the planning process.
3. A Real Commitment to Civic Society Participation: There was a commitment that was made but not properly followed through at the First All Stakeholders Conference to have delegates to it in the following Proportions, 70% Civil Society, 30% Political Parties. This has to be abided by, noting that political parties include more than those parties, which are represented in Parliament. COPAC also needs to allow legitimate apex organisations of Civic Society like, NANGO, to determine who is civil society, not the Political Parties who can easily form NGO's overnight. Business must be included, noting that the previous allocations seemed to have ignored them and that classic definitions of civic society exclude the state and capital.
4. Agenda setting by The Broad Church of stakeholders: Stakeholders as mentioned above must be the ones who set out a clear agenda and program for the Second All Stakeholders Conference. The above will allow us to move away from the 'loiter and linger' strategy that political parties have been subjecting us to at the expense of National Progress.
5. Popularising the COPAC Draft of 18 July 2012. The Herald has already serialised the ZANU PF amendments, in an act that fortifies impressions that have always been there that instead of being a public newspaper it is just a propaganda tool for ZANU PF. COPAC needs to make its Draft of 18 July readily available to all and sundry in forms and languages that people can access. There can be no meaningful national debate and discussion if people do not know what they are debating or discussing. The Draft is available on the internet, but this is not enough given the low internet penetration levels in the country which have been reported to be around 11%
6. NO Violence. Measures must be put in place to ensure that there is no violence at the conference and that if it occurs it will not be tolerated through non-partisan policing. Part of this, is an agreement on process with no tolerance for those who try to operate outside the process.
7. Commitment to tolerance, patience and progressive debate. Political party supporters are notorious for being amongst the most intolerant groups of people in the country. It has to be noted that this is a national process on which the future of not just the Constitution Making process, but the country hinges on. Lastly,
8. Unfettered Media Access to the Event: If the process is to be respected and assist in enhancing the constitution making process, both local and international media need, of necessity, to be allowed to cover the event without let or hindrance.
9. SADC and the AU MUST observe the process. This has already been suggested and dismissed as an invitation to outsiders to supervise our own process. This rebuttal is dishonest. The Global Political Agreement (GPA) itself, which is the instrument that gives life to the Second All Stakeholders Conference, is not just a domestic affair it is a continental affair. The African Union, as represented by its Commission Chairperson, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as represented by its Chairperson, and the Facilitator - Former President of the Republic of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, appended their signatures to the agreement. Having them observe the process is not to invite foreigners to an internal process, but it is an act of acting in the spirit of the conference, which seeks to bring "All € stakeholders to the table.
Continued arguments around sovereignty especially by ZANU PF are dishonest and a pure act of chicanery - Zimbabwe has already ceded its sovereignty in many ways, largely attributable to them. We have lost sovereignty over our currency (we use the US Dollar), lost food sovereignty (the World Food Program estimates that 1,6million citizens of the former bread basket of Africa, are in need of food aid) and lost political sovereignty (our country is being governed by an agreement that was facilitated by the African community not necessarily the will of the people). Not to mention how economically, our country has fallen prey to what Stephen Marks and Fironz Manji (in their Book, African Perspectives on China in Africa) call the new policy of China, which he argues has shifted from
Cold War ideology to a more classical pursuit of economic self-interest in the form of access to raw materials, markets and spheres of influence through investment, trade and military assistance - to the point where China can be suspected of pursuing the goals of any classical imperialist.
Because of the above, any vaunted talk of sovereignty where Zimbabwe is concerned is more show than substance because our politicians know that through their actions they have mortgaged the country to SADC and the AU politically and China economically. What is more important for them to realise, if they are serious about the sovereignty of the country, is that, the Constitution Making Process and the full implementation of the GPA are attempts at gaining back our sovereignty. But for now it is what is.
The above 9 points may not be enough to guarantee a positive Second All Stakeholder Conference, but their consideration, nay, their implementation will go a long way in ensuring that we move our country forward and not backwards.
If there was a time, when greater patriotism was called for, it is now. Our politicians are called to action, with the interests of the country at heart, beyond parochial partisan interests. The Second All Stakeholders Conference will be a stern test on whether our country wants to write a constitution for the nation or for particular political parties.
There are those who have already dismissed the possibilities of a successful Second All Stakeholder Conference because of what they have seen in the past and in the present. These people are justified in their scepticism, but this country needs 'greater fools' - people who believe that success can be achieved even if the odds are stacked against them, and others have failed. It may seem foolhardy and crazy to expect that the Second All Stakeholders Conference can come out with some meaningful result. But as an Apple McIntosh advert once proclaimed as part of their "Think Different € campaign in 1997 ' the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do'. Now Apple Inc. is the most valuable company in the world.