Today, the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference opens after delegates checked in and formalities were completed yesterday.
There has been much trepidation in the build-up to the constitutional indaba after the unsavoury, ugly violence which characterised the First All-Stakeholders’ Conference in 2009 as ruffians, masquerading as political activists, went out of their way to disrupt proceedings against the spirit of civilised political conduct.
These yobos could resurface today when the conference proper begins – and they are well capable of disruption, especially in view of the fact that those mandated to enforce order have largely not done so and have been accused of selective application of the law.
There has been much bickering over the authenticity of the draft constitution itself, with Zanu PF having made 266 amendments on its own, virtually rewriting the draft, with the two MDCs strongly objecting sided, though not directly, by Zanu PF negotiators, who have made several U-turns after being labelled sellouts by their own party. So, it is pertinent to ask: Which Zanu PF will turn up today?
Again, it appears there is an element, a powerful one, determined to see the whole constitution-making process fail because a level playing field would work against their anti-democratic nature. There has been a sustained campaign in the Zanu PF-controlled State media to have such an outcome. Emotions have been whipped up to cloud issues and attack personalities — all for political expediency. This is calculated to induce paralysis of fear in the people to accept whatever is imposed.
But can Zimbabwe afford this luxury of wasting effort and time? Is this cacophony in the national interest?
Furthermore, the inflammatory statements made by Zanu PF chief negotiator Patrick Chinamasa and spokesperson Rugare Gumbo last week of military threats are not, to say the least, helpful. They do not lay the ground for a conducive atmosphere because even before the start of conference, they have “delegimitised” their political opponents, who are they are supposed to sit down and discuss with in a compromising spirit to reach agreement. Such highly-charged utterances will be taken as a cue for violence by rowdy elements.
So, what’s the way forward for a successful, violence-free conference?
We suggest that the leaders of the three main political parties in the inclusive government – President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Welshman Ncube (MDC) – join hands at the opening of the conference and make a loud, clear stand against violence and disruption. Only by showing their hand will the message be crystal clear and get home.
That way, the rug will be pulled from under the rowdy elements.