President Jacob Zuma’s South African facilitation team arrived in Zimbabwe Tuesday evening to break an impasse over the constitution-making process, following accusations by the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) led by Professor Welshman Ncube that he was blocked from attending a principals meeting convened to discuss the draft constitution Monday.
This follows serious disagreements between Zanu PF and the MDC formations on handling the draft document following the holding of the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference last month.
President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara met in Harare to discuss the outstanding stakeholders’ report and resolved to set up a cross-party committee tasked with devising a mechanism to incorporate submissions from the stakeholders’ conference.
But Priscilla Misihairambwi-Mushonga, secretary general of the Ncube-MDC told VOA Studio 7 that her party leader did not attend the meeting that decided to form the committee, comprising the lead negotiators from the Management Committee representing the three main political parties in the inclusive government.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said: “He (Ncube) was certainly not a part of that decision.”
She said Ncube disagrees with the issue of creating another committee. “He disagreed first with the principle but also disagreed with the issues around the terms of reference of what that committee was going to do.”
The secretary general said Ncube was initially given the wrong venue, made to sit outside while the other three principals held their meeting, and was only invited to join the leaders after they had made their decision despite “personal assurances” from Tsvangirai that he had threatened to boycott the meeting if Ncube was not invited.
“By the time they called Professor Ncube they had already had discussion among themselves and had a conclusion to which they then asked Professor Ncube to comment,” Misihairabwi-Mushonga revealed.
However, Tsvangirai’s spokesperson William Bango issued conflicting statements as to what transpired during meetings of the unity government leaders.
Bango said the premier told him that Ncube participated in the second meeting in which the constitution-making process was discussed and the MDC leader did not raise any objections about being left out of any discussions.
“The meeting started in the afternoon as scheduled … And at the beginning they were discussing normal government business at which Professor Mutambara has to be part of, while professor Ncube and (Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric) Matinenga and Professor Ncube were waiting in a small holding room.
“When they were through with the normal government business, Tsvangirai insisted that Professor Ncube be part of the constitution-making discussions and they discussed the issues together.
“Professor Ncube did not raise any objections at the time. He participated in that discussion and after that the three principals on the constitutional matter made a decision on a number of issues,” Bango said.
Bango insisted that the premier wanted to include his counterpart in the other MDC in the principals meeting, as mandated by the Southern African Development Community, noting that “unfortunately Ncube is in dispute with the deputy prime minister and also with President Mugabe as to who the legitimate leader is”.
Asked to comment on why the premier did not walk out of the meeting in protest since he invited Ncube, Bango said: “Professors Mutambara and Ncube have a problem which is under judicial scrutiny. What these principals were discussing at the beginning was the normal government business of which Professor Mutambara is deputy prime minister.”
Meanwhile, Constitution and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga, who also attended the Monday meeting, said that the committee will be made up of three members from the current management committee.
But the Ncube-MDC says the setting up of this committee forced it to appeal for intervention by the South African facilitation team because there is an impasse on the way forward.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga said the Tsvangirai-MDC’s latest move is confusing because her party was under the impression, through MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti, that they too had written to the facilitation team to come in and intervene after indicating that there is a stalemate.
She said: “The Global Political Agreement says the moment you have a stakeholders’ conference and the moment you have a draft you take them to parliament and you proceed to a referendum. If anybody is unhappy they can vote no. Those that are happy can vote yes. That is our position. It has not changed.”
She accused Zanu PF of trying to bring in some “rejected amendments in their second draft and renegotiate them.”
Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said it was the duty and the right of the principals to take over the constitution making process.