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Wednesday, 24 October 2012

The COPAC circus continues

COPAC co-chairpersons during a press conference
By Blessing Vava
The much hyped COPAC 2nd ‘All Stakeholders’ has come and gone with nothing much coming out, rather the parties maintaining their positions with regards to the constitution  making process which has taken too long to complete than anticipated. Unlike the 1st Stakeholders conference in 2009, which was marred by violence and chaos, this one was rather ‘peaceful’ with no incidence of chaos reported, something commendable in our political landscape which has been riddled by polarisation and intolerance. The conference was nothing much to write home about and now that it has gone just like one of the many  money spending ventures, time wasting with no value added, no progress, to give it a better phrase it was a useless meeting typical of  what the inclusive government has been holding since its inception.
We have the final say-Mugabe
It was not surprising that the meeting yielded nothing, apart from attempting to fulfil lost timelines and values of the GPA. A closer look at how the conference was structured would give us a clearer picture of its irrelevance. Firstly, the GPA is not clear on the purpose of the holding of the indaba, its rather vague, Section (c) (iv) the draft Constitution shall be tabled within 3 months of completion of the public consultation process to a second All Stakeholders Conference.’’ Copac representatives ended up saying that the meeting is for recommendations and not amendments. One would ask who will be giving recommendations in this instance? From the onset the process has been in the hands of the three principals, the draft we have is a combination of positions from the same to their parties. The delegates to the conference were also largely drawn from the three formations except a few from civil society who begged for their inclusion or the other way round.  So it is like setting an examination for yourself and marking it at the same time.  It surely doesn’t work. From its framework Article VI in its very nature is exclusionary of political parties and other players outside parliament. Section 6.1says...  ‘’The Parties hereby agree: a) that they shall set up a Select Committee of Parliament composed of representatives of the Parties whose terms of reference shall be as follows:  (i) to set up such subcommittees chaired by a member of Parliament and composed of members of Parliament and representatives of Civil Society as may be necessary to assist the Select Committee in performing its mandate herein; They made it clear from the start that the role of civil society was to assist at the behest of COPAC as may be necessary, meaning that the process is for parties in government and no one else outside those confines have a say. You can only be invited at their mercy. Pity some civil society organisations still had faith in such a process were their  participation was at the behest of political parties. Some colleagues of mine from civil society confided that they were accredited under political parties making their contributions to this meeting highly compromised. They allege that a day before the conference all those accredited by MDCT including civic organizations had to meet at harvest house were accommodation and chapters for thematic committees were being allocated. They were chanting party slogans and telling people what to say during the conference, including people from civic society who were present. When getting into the conference there was a list were one had to check for his/her name, there was no list for civic society, all the names of civic society members appeared on the MDC-T list, the discussions during the thematic sessions ended up being a contest between the parties in government rather than objective analysis.
 It’s very much disturbing when civil society is now showing lack of principle and consistence employing desperate means forcing themselves on processes which   are clearly in sharp contrast to what they purport to be advocating for. They begged to be part of a meeting they were not wanted and political parties cleverly put them under their armpits in the process swallowing their voices rendering civil society representatives  mere party functionaries and spectators during the conference. Kana washanya pamusha pewanhu unodya unyerere chero zvikashatasei unongoti zvinonaka. That is exactly what they did. No need of crying foul now when they failed to contest Article VI which relegated civil society to ‘mere’ assistance of the select committee as may be necessary. Instead of begging COPAC to be part of its process civil society should take a leading role in fighting mal-practices and fraudulent processes being done by COPAC. Maybe this is the ‘people driven’ process civil society has been clamouring for in the past. When the role of civil society becomes compromised on political party politics and selfish expedience it becomes a cause for concern.
What happened to the principles and ideals of the National Working People’s Convention? What happened to what civil society agreed in the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter? These are clear positions which have the capacity to carry this country forward and this is what civil society should be fighting for and not to act like a chameleon which changes its colour based on its surroundings. Whereas COPAC/GNU will be continuing with their anti-people crusade there are some civic groups who will still be begging to be part of such processes abandoning their role as civics.
 COPAC has been a great betrayal and failure, it is a disgrace, undemocratic and an illegitimate process that has wasted national and donor resources.  They have personalised constitution  making for the whole nation to be their private project, Zimbabwe does not belong to three principals let alone political parties, that we should be said loud and clear!!! 
 To show unscrupulous nature of COPAC - the time allocated to analysing the draft was rather dubious, how can people analyse 176 paged document written in legal language, English for that matter in one and half hours? Not all  delegates at the conference passed through the law school,  COPAC should have tabled a simplified version of the draft in all languages if they were really genuine.
In summation, the process was a charade, it was exclusive to the three parties and their principals, no other political parties or interest groups were invited as equal partners to participate can do for their nation is to dismiss the dining and wining canvassed as an ‘all stakeholders,’ it was just a meeting of the parties in GNU. Equally, the greatest flaw of it all is that the principals will have the final say as President Mugabe put it clearly during the opening of the conference, he is honest unlike the other leaders in the GNU who keep lying to the whole nation that the process is people driven. 
 Blessing ‘Vuvuzela’ Vava is a blogger from Chipinge. He can be contacted on blessingvava@gmail.com