2nd All Stakeholders Conference: More Show than Substance


The Second All Stakeholders' Process, yesterday the 22nd of October 2012, kicked off to a good violence free start. While the conference was free of violence, it was replete with drama as the proceedings took place. The first sign of this drama was the withdrawal from the official opening ceremony of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Professor Welshman Ncube, in protest over the inclusion on the ceremonies program a keynote speech by Deputy Prime Minister Authur Mutambara. The party later returned to join proceedings, but even as they did, it was clear that the Stakeholders' Conference was more about fulfilling obligations rather than actually attaining anything. The Conference, which based on yesterday's proceedings, seemed more of a symbolic political platform and process rather than an effectual platform for popular scrutiny and enhancement of the draft constitution.


Outside the earlier drama around the initial pull out by the Welshman Ncube led MDC, the conference methodology seemed to render itself to the expression of the conference as more show than substance. This could be discerned from from the key note speeches that were presented, and was further fortified by the afternoon thematic breakaway sessions.


During the opening ceremony, President Robert Mugabe fell short of dismissing everything that was being done, when he declared that he and his fellow principals had a vested interest in the process and would, to all intents and purpose have the final say on the draft. These sentiments by the President of Zimbabwe were a direct contradiction of sentiments that had been shared just before by the Prime Minister who in his own key note speech had declared (As Principals);


"We have no interests in tempering with the people's views. Besides the people still reserve their final judgement at the referendum."


Outside the contradiction between the " Principals € key note addresses, President Mugabe's own speech was full of double speak. Having stated the above that as "Principals € they would have the final say, he went on to state that,


"When a vote is cast, let us take it as it is. If it's a yes vote, it's a yes vote. If it's a no vote it's a no vote."

The President also urged Delegates to the 2nd All Stakeholders Conference to be "Objective €, and in the same breath also urged them to be " correct €.


In the afternoon sessions, the tensions between different actors were palpable in most groups. This was even more so amongst the parties to COPAC and the Global Political Agreement. It seemed clear that ZANU PF Delegates had come to the conference with the express intention of ensuring that their party's 266 objections and changes to the COPAC draft were placed on the record. While the MDC formations' delegates seemed to be carrying a brief to counter each one of those 266 inputs, rendering most of the discussions useless, as they were based on Political Party 'correctness' but far from being 'objective'.   It was clear that the Political parties were prepared for each other, with both Political divides occasionally being surprised and having no rebuttal to some submissions by Civil Society actors, whose input they had not accessed before and prepped their delegates for.


In the final analysis, it seemed clear that given the polarity established by the countering proposals, that it would be difficult for many recommendations to be auctioned into actual changes in the draft.  However, given the fact that the intentions of different actors seemed to have been as stated above, it would not be a surprise to see the next battle on the Constitution making Process being around the inclusion of certain things and the revision of others simply because they were stated. This has happened before with the previous citations of the National Statistical Report as a justification for the ZANU PF sponsored changes, on the premise that "it was said, so it should be included in the draft €.


So as it turns out, outside fulfilling the requirements of Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement, it is relatively unclear, what other purpose the 2nd All Stakeholders Conference is going to serve, outside creating the basis for debate in COPAC and parliament, as has been the case in the past, on what the "people " said and didn't say. What they meant, and didn't mean.


The peaceful atmosphere that prevailed on day one is commendable, but the conference itself, from the day's proceedings, seemed to be more show than substance, more symbolic than effectual. And the trend is likely to continue into day 2.

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