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"Do not Be Arrogant" COPAC warned, as Civil Society leaders take COPAC to task over 2nd All Stakeholders' Conference

Over a Hundred civil society representatives met with COPAC Chairpersons (Hon. Mangwana, Hon. Mwonzora and Rejoice Ngwenya representing Hon Mukosi) on the 19th of October 2012 initially for a session that was meant as a briefing on the forthcoming 2nd All stakeholders' Conference, but which ended up being dominated by the issue of delegate selection. The briefing held at the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and NANGO-organised Civil Society Leaders Conference, and facilitated by the Crisis Coalition Director Mr M. Lewanika, was held as an exchange between the delegates and chairpersons rather than as a series of monologues.

At the briefing, Civil Society leaders demanded a clear defined framework for CSOs' participation in the 2nd Stakeholders Conference and emphasised their need for COPAC to accredit Civil Society Delegates within the agreed parameters of 70% civil society accreditation.

In one of the first interventions, COPAC was informed by the ZIMCODD Chairperson that:

"Crisis and NANGO are grand Coalitions, and we have no problems with other networks like FONGO or the business community being invited. But to say a combination of these grand coalitions, who combined cover over 2000 organisations, is only allocated 150 delegates is an insult €.

Hon Mangwana acknowledged the crucial role of civil society and the importance of their participation at the All Stakeholders Conference. He explained that COPAC did not invite Civil Society Organisations along party lines, highlighting that given the fact that Crisis Coalition and NANGO are not the only coalitions covering all aspects of Civil Society, they allocated delegates from other sectors of civil society which included, children's rights, gender, health/HIV and AIDS, education, churches, trade unions and business for purposes of inclusivity.

"You are not being made appendages of political parties, and all we are trying to do is to ensure inclusivity. The perception that we have not adhered to 70% representation of civil society is not the case and when we asked for a provisional list of 300 delegates it was for purposes of auditing and comparison to see whether all sectors are covered and indeed we noticed that 60 of your proposed delegates had been automatically accredited because their names appeared on our Outreach process database €,

said Mangwana.

Mangwana further elaborated that COPAC had exceeded the number of delegates by 100 to 1200 so as to accommodate all stakeholders and advised that they have reopened the accreditation for civil society.

"We have even gone out of our way by allocating 100 more delegates as there are over 4 000 civic organisations in Zimbabwe."

In a retort to the COPAC sentiments, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition Spokesperson, Mr Thabani Nyoni, cautioned COPAC against the arrogance that they had been displaying thus far. In his sharp retort, the spokesperson said:

"As Civil Society, we have said please allow us to submit our list of names. But COPAC decided to that on their own. The question that remains is; how are the names appearing at COPAC when we have not submitted them? Do we really only have to get information after fighting and struggling? Then you come here and try to sweet talk us into submission. This level of arrogance that you are demonstrating is unacceptable. €

In response, Hon Mwonzora apologised for any sentiments or jokes that may have been off-colour, and also reiterated that COPAC is appreciative of the critical role civil society plays in constitution making.

"We are grateful to the civil society which have sustained the constitution making process for the past three years and it is important that we deliver to them accurate information.   CSOs made it clear that they do not want to be affiliated to political parties and we agreed, in addition to agreeing to keep accreditation open until CSOs are accommodated €,

Hon Mwonzora emphasised that CSO cooperation is what is needed the most so that the process can be as inclusive as possible. He added that civil society leaders are welcome to audit and check on compliance and if there is something wrong COPAC is obliged to correct.

In an appeal for progress Hon. Mwonzora said;

"We have bickered enough and it is time to move on and look for a way forward for we cannot have continuous disputes for two days and give up on a process we have journeyed on for 3 years. €

In an interesting twist to the meeting, Jenni Williams of WOZA removed the spotlight from the Co-Chairs, who had satisfied her questions and turned it on to Crisis Coalition, asking why the CSO names had been submitted late, when the Co-Chairs had said that they had agreed with The Coalition's representatives to have the names by late afternoon on Monday, and only got them mid- morning on Tuesday - especially after she had taken less than 5 minutes to respond to Crisis' call for names.

The Crisis Director explained that the meeting they had had with COPAC on the Monday had started shortly before 1100hrs and ended just before 1300hrs, with communications being sent out by email around 1400hrs, making it impossible to meet a late afternoon deadline, given the fact that not everyone was efficient as WOZA in responding.

In his concluding remarks, Hon Mangwana gave highlights of the forthcoming 2nd All Stakeholders' Conference and told the meeting that the first day of the constitutional conference would be marked by the arrival of delegates while the second day will see the official opening by principals in the coalition government after which delegates would go for the plenary where the draft constitution would be tabled.

"After that we will go into breakaway groups to discuss various thematic chapters of the draft constitution and report to the plenary the collaborated reports on the following day; € said Mangwana.

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