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Cablegate: Zimbabwe Inches Towards a New Constitution

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FM AMEMBASSY HARARE
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5310
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HARARE 000022

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

AF/S FOR B.WALCH
DRL FOR N. WILETT
ADDIS ABABA FOR USAU
ADDIS ABABA FOR ACSS
NSC FOR M. GAVIN
STATE PASS TO USAID FOR J. HARMON AND L. DOBBINS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PREL PGOV PTER PHUM ASEC ZI
SUBJECT: ZIMBABWE INCHES TOWARDS A NEW CONSTITUTION

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-------
SUMMARY
-------

1. (SBU) On January 11, Minister of Constitutional and
Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga presided over the launch
of the public outreach portion of Zimbabwe's effort to draft
a new constitution. In sharp contrast with last July's
chaotic All Stakeholders Conference, the approximate 1,000
delegates in attendance were orderly and, at times, even
showed a commonality of purpose that cut across party lines.
A number of representatives from all three parties spoke of
the need for unity as the country pursues its quest for a new
democratic constitution. The launch was followed by a
three-day training period. Thematic outreach teams will then
travel throughout Zimbabwe to gather views on the new
constitution. While this week's meetings went smoothly,
there is concern that ZANU-PF will attempt to impede outreach
efforts. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Matinenga made opening remarks to about 1,000
delegates to launch the outreach process. The launch was
followed by a three-day training course administered to the
625 members of the thematic outreach teams that will travel
throughout Zimbabwe, gathering public views on the content of
the new democratic constitution. The 65 day outreach effort
will commence in the next couple of weeks. The GOZ and donor
agencies are jointly providing funding.

--------------------------------------
Time Frame for New Constitution Missed
--------------------------------------

3. (SBU) In his remarks at the launch, Matinenga attributed
the delay in beginning the outreach portion of the process to
bickering amongst the three political parties to the GPA,
lack of funding, and little trust between stakeholders.
Matinenga told the delegates that the Parliamentary Select
Committee on the Constitution (PSCC) and his ministry are
merely facilitating the process to enable Zimbabweans to
write a democratic constitution for themselves. He
emphasized that the process of writing a new constitution was
not about competing for state power, but building strong
democratic institutions that foster good governance.

----------------------------
Peaceful Launch A Good Omen?
----------------------------

4. (SBU) The launch of the outreach phase was peaceful and
orderly, contrasting sharply with the chaos that reigned on
the first day of the first All Stakeholders Conference in
July 2009 when the proceedings were disrupted by ZANU-PF
supporters and war veterans loyal to President Mugabe.

5. (SBU) We spoke to some delegates who told us that they
were impressed by the peaceful atmosphere which prevailed at
the event. For example, MDC-T legislator for Makoni South,
Pishai Muchauraya, said that the event was an important
milestone in the constitution-making process and counseled
caution. He said that ZANU-PF can behave itself when it
suits them, but cannot be trusted to keep cooperating without
external pressure to rein them in. His observation proved
Qexternal pressure to rein them in. His observation proved
prescient: on January 12 some war veterans tried to disrupt a
training session of a thematic committee by singing
revolutionary songs. But other members of the committee from
the MDC and civic organizations refused to be cowed by the
veterans and rebuked them, demanding they observe the rules
of the PSCC that require all members to be non-political.


HARARE 00000022 002.2 OF 003


--------------------------------------------- ----------
"Shut Up" Mangwana Tells War Veterans Leader Chinotimba
--------------------------------------------- ----------

6. (SBU) As the fracas threatened to get out of hand,
ZANU-PF PSCC Co-Chair Paul Mangwana intervened. Mangwana
berated the veterans and told them that they had no monopoly
over the country's affairs. He told notorious veterans'
leader Joseph Chinotimba to "shut up and stick to business."
The veterans relented and complied. The incident underscored
the precarious state of the truce that binds the political
rivals even in a national cause such as the writing of new
constitution.

----------------------
Kariba Draft Abandoned
----------------------

7. (SBU) One sticking point in the ongoing constitutional
reform process has been the parties' disagreement on the use
of the 2007 Kariba Draft Constitution. ZANU-PF had insisted
that the draft be the reference point for the new
constitution-making effort, while the MDC argued that there
should be no reference document. But in their speeches
Mangwana and PSCC co-chair Douglas Mwonzora told the
delegates that the outreach teams would not use any reference
documents when they gathered the people's views on the
constitution. Mangwana told the delegates that no draft
would be imposed on the people, and the people must give
their views freely. He warned all delegates -- singling out
politically-linked delegates -- against engaging in
campaigning. He said that political party representatives in
the PSCC ceased to take instructions from their parties once
they became part of the Committee.

8. (SBU) We spoke to Mangwana about the positive tone of his
speech to the delegates. He said that the event warranted it
and that the time had come for Zimbabwe to move forward.

------------
MDC On Guard
------------

9. (SBU) Despite the successful launch of the outreach
phase, some senior MDC-T officials remained cautious.
Mwonzora told us that while he appreciated the level of
co-operation that ZANU-PF was showing, it was important for
the MDC formations not to be complacent. He said that the
process is still vulnerable to the caprices of ZANU-PF. For
the time being however, Mwonzora believes that the process is
on course and should lead to a draft constitution by year's
end. He told us that the process had built-in mechanisms to
ensure public views were captured accurately.

10. (SBU) Echoing Mwonzora's caution, Matinenga told the
Ambassador in a meeting on January 14 that the outreach phase
was beginning well and that ZANU-PF was saying the right
things. But he noted that during his visits to rural areas
to discuss the constitutional process ZANU-PF officials had
said constitutional reform should be dependent on the removal
of sanctions and he was concerned that ZANU-PF would try to
impede the outreach.

----------------------
Civil Society Critical
----------------------
Q----------------------
11. (SBU) The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) which
has been critical of the constitutional process because of
the influence of the political parties, issued a statement
that "the process is not only illegitimate but should not be

HARARE 00000022 003 OF 003


taken seriously by any Zimbabwean citizen." The NCA
complained that the composition of the thematic committees
had been determined by the parties and not civil society.
Civil society groups have also noted that outreach members
include partisans such as Jonathan Moyo and individuals who
were involved in the 2008 election violence.

-------
COMMENT
-------

12. (SBU) Zimbabwe's constitutional drafting process has
resumed after a six-month hiatus caused largely by the
preoccupation of the political leadership with outmaneuvering
each other in government. Consequently, the outreach phase
has begun two months after it was supposed to have been
completed.

13. (SBU) Delays aside, this phase will test ZANU-PF's
willingness to tolerate constitutional reform. Historically
Mugabe's party has restricted access by civics and members of
the opposition into rural strongholds. With sensitive topics
up for discussion such as checks on executive authority and
control of the military, ZANU-PF may view this outreach
effort as a threat to their control and engage in efforts to
frustrate the process. END COMMENT.

RAY

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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