Stakeholders Conference a Qualified success"¦.But"¦

The Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC) Second All Stakeholders Conference ended yesterday, 23 October 2012, at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) with Delegates labeling it a qualified success, with many questions still unanswered.

The meeting, which was attended by more than 1000 delegates, was largely peaceful, inspite of some flashes of temper, and dogmatic support for and against some provisons in the draft. These temperamental moments were largely witnessed during the thematic committee discussions, which were the centre-piece of the Conference, where opportunities for the delegates to analyse the draft constitution and make recommendations and comments to COPAC were to be availed.

Political Maturity

The Conference's tone was set by the 'GPA Principals' who, during the official opening, implored delegates to be peacegul and tokerent of each others views. The spirit of tolerence seemed to have permeated throught the conference as one case of violent behaviour involvng a ZANU PF Member, Temba Mliswa was reported, while a case of unwarranted arrest was registered for a Social Justice Activist who had been lobbying for his movements positions.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC) Spokesperson and the Director of Bulawayo Agenda Mr Thabani Nyoni noted that the process was a success in terms of allowing peaceful debate to take place among stakeholders.

"The Conference was a resounding success since people were allowed to debate freely and peacefully. The conference provided an opportunity for different groups to push for their recommendations and elements not captured in the COPAC Draft €,

said Mr Nyoni.

The Director of Zimbabwe Young Women Network for Peace Building (ZYWNP) Ms Grace Chirenje noted that the Second All Stakeholders Conference was well organised and commended the non-violent environment.

"As young women, we were accorded the opportunity to interrogate the COPAC draft and we managed to put forward some of the issues that we felt affected the young people to be included in the COPAC draft €.

Women's groups, who are on record as supporting the COPAC draft, expressed that the current COPAC Draft is by far a major gain in as far as guaranteeing   the rights of women is concerned. In an interview with the Crisis report team Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) Chairperson, Ms Virginia Muwanigwa highlighted that unlike the First All Stakeholders Conference, the second conference exhibited  an admirable difference, as there was a peaceful atmosphere for participation.

"Having GPA principals present and preaching on peace and non-violence was also commendable. The spirit of tolerance was evident as people participated actively and without fear in their respective thematic committees, € added Ms Muwanigwa

Youth Alliance for Democracy Director Mr Tichaona Masiyambiri also commended the non-violent environment.

"l want to salute Zimbabweans for showing political maturity. The process went on well and delegates exhibited tolerance in the manner in which they deliberated. Thumbs up Zimbabwe. We are getting there. €

Director of National Association of Society for the Care of Handicapped (NASCOH) Mr Muguti also commended the peaceful manner in which the conference was held and the number of people with disability who attended.

Limited Opportunity and uncertainty

Despite the peaceful spirit and political tolerance which permeated throughout the conference civil society organisations which participated at the Second All Stakeholders Conference felt that it was too soon to celebrate as the discussions during the thematic committees were polarised and made it difficult to engage in substantial debate.

Mr Thabani Nyoni highlighted that there was no clarity as to what will happen to the comments and or recommendations submitted to COPAC during the plenary, especially inlight of the assertion by President Mugabe that the three principals to the GPA will have the final say.

"While an opportunity was availed to us to push for some issues not captured in the COPAC Draft, there is a glaring uncertainty as to whether these submissions will find their way into the final draft constitution before the referendum. We pray that the principals will allow the people of Zimbabwe to decide their own destiny without interference from politicians, €

said a visibly concerned Mr Nyoni.

Concerns were also raised around the nature of engagement by political actors. While ZANU PF delegates were their proposed  266 amendments to the COPAC draft, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) delegates sought to maintain the COPAC Draft by continuously  countring other submissions through contributions like 'Zvazviri/ Njengoba-nje' (leave it as it is).

"This is the level where sectoral representatives were supposed to critically analyse and interrogate the COPAC draft but people were just stating the issues as they are. There is also uncertainty in terms of how the comments are going to be incorporated into the draft, €

said Ms Hlatywayo, Director of Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust.

"I believe that participants brought their recommendations to the table and they were noted and thus a final conclusion cannot be ascertained. Results can only be seen in the final draft, €

said Ms Muwanigwa. She added that some issues such as the death penalty were not looked into, as she feels it should be abolished rather than exempting certain groups

The Director of Media Alliance of Zimbabwe, Ms Patience Zirima highlighted that there was no consensus on the key issues that people were recommending.

"Tempers were volatile and the people had their positions and proposals which were only included as comments as there was no agreement in most of the contentious sections,"

said Ms Zirima

Some delegates had high expectations but however according to COPAC their contributions were only recommendations to be considered by the select committee.

"It was difficult to bring in fresh issues into the COPAC Draft as the methodology used only allowed contents of the draft to be examined, €

added Sithabile Dewa of Heal Zimbabwe Trust.

Mr Muguti supported the argument that there was limited opportunity to bring in new issues and that there was no guarantee that their issues will be included in the draft.

"Although recommendations were made on issues of terminology, to broaden the definition of disability and also ensuring that 10% of the 60 seats reserved for women be awarded to women with disability, there is still no guarantee that these issue will see the light of day in the new constitution. €

Ms Chirenje expressed concern over some committee members who were working on Devolution of power and Traditional Leadership who ended up disowning the process which they were part of and signatory to.

"At the end of the day issues which are not supposed to be political ended up being political. As a Zimbabwean I await anxiously to see the end game and product of the constitution making process "added Ms Chirenje.

Way forward

Some civil society leaders called for the spirit permeating the conference to inspire instantaneous and spontaneous personal attitudinal change in Zimbabwe. CiZC spokesperson Mr Nyoni called for civil society organisations to regroup and come up with a strategy to put pressure on the executive and COPAC not to interfere with the people's views.

According to a press statement released by COPAC, the Referendum is likely to be held in January 2013.

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