The constitution-making process was on Monday thrown into turmoil after the Welshman Ncube-led MDC temporarily withdrew from the exercise, grinding the data-uploading process to a screeching halt.
The party withdrew from Copac citing the refusal by co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora to sign a letter ordering the replacement of four rapporteurs and a personal assistant to co-chairperson Edward Mkhosi, who defected from the party ahead of the national congress which ushered Ncube to the presidency.
The rapporteurs meant to be replaced are Morgan Changamire, Patrick Muusha, Oswell Dziike and Enock Tsikai and Maxwell Zimuto, who was an assistant to co-chairperson Edward Mkhosi.
They were, however, refusing to vacate their hotel rooms on the grounds that the replacement letter was not signed by all the three co-chairpersons.
The Global Political Agreement (GPA), which gave birth to Zimbabwe’s unity government, states that Copac should be made up of the three parties in the inclusive government, meaning that the process cannot continue if one of the parties pulled out.
“We have withdrawn from Copac for the time being, because Mwonzora, who is a co-chairperson, is interfering in the affairs of the party. He has sided with the people we have removed and because of that, they have refused to move,” said Kurauone Chihwayi, the deputy spokesperson of the party.
“We suspected there was a hidden hand behind these people and we have identified that hand as Mwonzora’s.”
An urgent management committee, attended by the three co-chairpersons, Mwonzora (MDC-T), Mkhosi (MDC-M), Paul Mangwana (Zanu PF), Constitutional Affairs minister, Advocate Eric Matinenga, and GPA negotiators, Elton Mangoma, Nicholas Goche, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and Ncube was called to break the impasse.
After a “heated” three-hour meeting, the committee agreed to replace the rapporteurs on condition that MDC paid the replacements and indemnified Copac from any legal action. The replaced rapporteurs will however continue to receive their allowances from Copac although they were ordered to move out of their hotel rooms.
Mkhosi and Mwonzora confirmed the development. “The management committee agreed that they should not interfere in internal party politics, so those people are going. We had pulled out but we are now back at work,” said Mkhosi on Monday afternoon.
Mwonzora confirmed that he refused to sign the replacement letter saying the select committee had agreed that fromJanuary 5, they would not replace staff, since the data uploading exercise was essentially a verification exercise.
“There were no queries raised and we then drafted contracts on January 10, and in all this the party was involved. We gave the contracts to each of the rapporteurs and again they were allowed to sign. Thereafter, on the 11th we made down payments and again no issue was raised,” he said.
He said they received a request to withdraw the rapporteurs on January 12 after they had already signed contracts and received half their allowances.
“The select committee met and said the withdrawal was unprocedural,” he said. He said the party’s deputy president Edwin Mushoriwa then came and made an undertaking that the party would pay for the replacements. He said the committee asked him to put his undertaking in writing, but he did not do so.
“As a qualified lawyer and experienced lawyer, my area of specialty being labour law, I could not append my signature where there are clear legality issues, but today there was a management committee meeting where MDC undertook to indemnify Copac against any legal claims,” he said.
“We then agreed that they could replace the rapporteurs.”