The constitution-making process will not be rushed simply because President Robert Mugabe wants elections to be held this year, a Cabinet minister said on Monday.
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said there was no way the country could cut short the crafting of the new constitution just because elections had been announced.
“My interest as the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs is to see to it that a good product is produced at the end of it all,” said Matinenga.
“We cannot take short cuts because we want this process to be run in a proper procedural manner.”
President Mugabe has said that harmonised elections should be held mid-this year, a position which was approved at the 11th Zanu PF conference in Mutare in December.
The President has reiterated that he does not want to extend the life of the unity government beyond February, when it would have been in place for two years. His Zanu PF party has vowed to hold elections with or without a new constitution.
But Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the country’s elections cannot be held in June 2011 as demanded by President Mugabe, saying that before a new ballot is organised a revised constitution must be in place, with electoral reforms effected.
Tsvangirai warned that a premature election could return the country back where it was in 2008 following an election marred by compilation delays and anomalies and often deadly violence.
“It is not possible to have elections in June next year because we need to have a referendum first. When the police, army, militia, war veterans are used to intimidate, coerce, and cause torture and death to the people, that is the kind of violence we need to contain,” Tsvangirai said recently.
When the MDC-T National Council met in December, the party resolved they would contest presidential elections only.
Matinenga said no date for the referendum had been set but expectations were that it would be held around midyear.
“We do not have a date for the referendum yet because when we embarked on this process we had not realised that there were a lot of things we had not anticipated. It is difficult to give a date for the referendum, but I can say it will be mid 2011.”
He said next week Copac would start uploading the data that was collected during the constitutional outreach programmes.
“The Ministry of Finance disbursed $2,5 million for the constitution-making process, but most of that money was going to meet the liabilities that had been incurred. We decided to allocate money from that fund for uploading of data,” said Matinenga.
He said after the uploading of data was completed, thematic committees, which included representatives of all parties involved will then meet.
“The thematic committees will then look at certain specific thematic areas that were identified during the first all stakeholders’ conference and try to see how these have been answered during the outreach stage when Zimbabweans aired their views,” he said.
Matinenga said the drafting of the clauses to be included in the new constitution would then follow.
He said it was irrelevant for Zimbabweans to trouble themselves about issues to do with whether the country should engage local or international experts to do the drafting.
“What I am looking for in drafting of the new constitution is to get persons who can do the job – whether they come from China, India or the United Kingdom is not of concern. We should not be interested in where a person comes from but we should look at their ability to deliver,” said Matinenga.
“If we are able to identify the necessary expertise in Zimbabwe, then we will engage them. However, if we are unable to get the necessary expertise within, we will go to other countries in the region or even beyond.”
Matinenga said countries like South Africa and Kenya had gone through the same exercise and it would not be of any harm to tap skills from their constitutional drafting experts.