Copac U-turn on civic observers


The Constitutional Select Committee (Copac) has climbed down on its earlier position barring civil society organisations from monitoring the constitutional outreach programme and officially declared them partners in the process.
The latest decision was reached after a meeting between the two squabbling parties at Parliament yesterday.
Until Monday, Copac had had disowned all non-governmental organisations (NGOs) monitoring the constitution-making process saying they were “bogus, illegal, seeking to undermine the constitution reform process and spreading malicious and misleading information”.
The committee had unanimously refused to accredit the NGOs and even threatened to report them to the police.
But in a major U-turn yesterday, Copac co-chairperson Paul Mangwana said civil society organisations would be allowed to observe the outreach programme.
“The three groups will be accredited tomorrow, but the groups will be observing the outreach meetings and not monitoring,” said Mangwana.
“We want to agree on a code of conduct and we have set up a committee made up of two people from Copac and two people from Nango (National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations), which these organisations will now be under.”
The organisations include the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Zimbabwe Peace Project and Zimbabwe Election Support Network.
Copac yesterday summoned the three organisations under the umbrella of Nango and reached an agreement that they would be allowed to observe the outreach programme. Cephas Zinhumwe, Nango chief executive officer, said civil society groups had approached Copac requesting to be allowed to monitor the programmes. He said they had agreed to be observers instead of monitors. “They have qualms with the word monitoring because they think it makes us as if we are superior to them,” Zinhumwe said.
On Monday Mangwana said members from civic groups were “bogus” and that Copac had instructed the police to turn them away if they pitched up at outreach meetings.
“We went to Kenya and Zambia when they were going through the same process and we did not find any constitutional monitors there,”Mangwana said.