Copac fingers MDC-M in defence

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BULAWAYO: The Constitution Select Committee (Copac) has fingered the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-M) led by Professor Arthur Mutambara as having been behind the move to drop three Bulawayo activists from the outreach programme.
This was revealed by Copac lawyer, Josphat Tshuma during an urgent High Court chamber application filed by the three activists from a pressure group, Ibhetshu LikaZulu, in Bulawayo on Monday.
The three, Qhubekani Dube, Mqondisi Moyo and Phathisani Nondo took the constitution select committee to court after it dropped them from the final list of the outreach teams.
More than 700 people are expected to be deployed throughout the country to solicit for people’s views on the constitution.
The trio is arguing that the select committee deprived them of their right to actively participate in the re-writing of the country’s new supreme law.
Defending Copac, Tshuma told judges, Justices Nicholas Ndou and Nicholas Mathonsi, the newly sworn in judge of the High Court that there had been a discovery the applicants were members of Zapu.
He also challenged the court’s powers to deal with the matter.
“In terms of the law, this court will have to deal with four issues mainly relating to having unfairly interfered in the administration of the process by the defendants, or be seen to have particular interest in the case acted corruptly in hearing the case, and or having irregularly heard the case,” said Tshuma.
In his defence in chief, Tshuma said the decision to drop the three was reached after it was discovered that the three were members of Zapu.
“Respondent received communication from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-M), the political party that had submitted the names of the Applicants, to the effect that they had discovered that Applicants were not only members of Ibhetshu LikaZulu, but that they were members of a political party, Zapu, a fact they were not aware at the time they first submitted their names,” said Tshuma.
He added: “Not only were they prominent members of Zapu; Qhubekani Dube, the first applicant is the Youth Provincial Chairperson of Zapu for the Bulawayo Province.”
Tshuma said allowing the three to participate in the process as members of the MDC-M would have given Zapu an upper hand over other political parties.
He said this would have helped Zapu to get eight members in the outreach programme against the agreed five.
“In terms of the criteria agreed upon by the respondent and the political parties, applicants could not be allowed to proceed to participate in the outreach programme, as this would give Zapu undue advantage over other political parties (of its size).
“Zapu was allowed to nominate five people, just like other political parties of its size. By allowing the applicants to participate, it would have meant that Zapu was represented by eight people, three more than other political parties. It was on this ground that the applicants were dropped from the list of the outreach team,” Tshuma said.
According to the three’s lawyer, Sindiso Mazibisa of Cheda and Partners, his clients attended training of outreach personnel in Harare after their names had been submitted to Copac by the MDC-M. It is the three’s contention that by training them, Copac understood the basis of their participation in the process.
Said Mazibisa: “The applicants are aggrieved by the actions of the respondent. That is why they have approached the courts for an order that will help solve this matter.
“The applicants contend that they were conspicuously excluded from the final list of outreach persons despite having undergone training by Copac. They also signed codes of conduct, which in itself shows they had been accepted as members of the outreach teams.”
Mazibisa, in his submissions, said Copac, in terms of the law, could not do as it pleased when in actual fact it had recognised the role that could have been played by the three.
“In terms of the Administration of Justice Act, the respondent cannot act as it wishes. It cannot take people on board and decide to drop them without communicating such a decision with the concerned people.
“In this, my clients are arguing Copac rode roughshod as it were over their legitimate and constitutional right to participate in the constitution making process,” Mazibisa said.
He also dismissed as untrue the respondents’ arguments in the opposing papers that the decision to drop the three had been communicated to them.
“The respondent claims there was communication between itself and MDC-M officials on the decision to drop the applicants from the outreach process.
“First, there is no evidence of the criteria used in selecting the participants that can assist this court in making its decision. The respondents say there was communication with the applicants of their dropping from the process.
“Significantly, there is no communication that has been provided to this court to prove that point. It shows the applicant’s lack of seriousness on important matters that would help this court in reaching decisions,” Mazibisa said.
Justices Ndou and Mathonsi said they needed time to study submissions made by both counsels before they make their ruling.