ZIMBABWE – MDC formation led by Professor Welshman Cube yesterday boycotted the official opening of the Second All Stakeholders Conference in protest against Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s presence.The party, however, attended the thematic deliberations.
Addressing journalists and party delegates soon after the official opening, party president Prof Ncube said they boycotted the event because President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai had on several occasions violated the Maputo Sadc resolution, which recognised him as the MDC leader.
“ZanuPF requested that DPM Mutambara be allowed to address the delegates and we made it clear to Minister Eric Matinenga (Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs) that under no circumstances would we agree to that,” he said. “They then requested that he would at least give a vote of thanks but we said no.
We suggested that it was better to have Vice President Joice Mujuru give the vote of thanks because she is senior and that Mutambara has no special role to play since he doesn’t represent anyone else except himself.”
Prof Ncube said it was then agreed that Prof Mutambara would not address the delegates. He said the issue was brought again on Sunday when party Copac cochairperson Mr Edward Mkhosi was told by his cochairpersons that DPM Mutambara would either address together with President Mugabe, PM Tsvangirai and Prof Ncube or that DPM Mutambara would give a vote of thanks.
“We made it clear to Honourable Mkhosi that this was a closed matter. He indicated to us this morning that Prof Mutambara would not address. “It was only after we had been given the programme that there was a provision for a vote for thanks without the name of the person who was going to do that.
It only said the speaker would be advised. “After that, Honourable Mkhosi asked his colleagues who was going to give the vote of thanks. That is when Honourable Paul Mangwana (Copac cochairperson for ZanuPF) indicated that the programme had been drafted that way,” he said.
Prof Ncube said they formally lodged a complaint with the Sadc facilitation team that came to observe the conference over the issue.
However, Mangwana and his MDCT counterpart, Mr Douglas Mwonzora dismissed the boycott as irrelevant.
“We made it clear that the official opening should be an executive function, that is why the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs chaired the ceremony,” said Mangwana. “We invited President Mugabe in his capacity as Head of State.
We also invited Prime Minister Tsvangirai in his capacity as Prime Minister. We invited the deputy Prime Ministers Mutambara and (Thokozani) Khupe in their capacities as deputy Prime Ministers. We were not inviting them as leaders of political parties.”
Mangwana said the facilitation team had no control over Government activities of Zimbabwe. “This was a Government programme. The facilitation team cannot tell us what to do with Government business. They are only there to facilitate dialogue when there are disagreements but in this case there are no disagreements. Their boycott was totally misplaced. There are other forums where they can fight over control of their party. We will continue with our programme unperturbed,” Mangwana said.
Mr Mwonzora added: “For the people of Zimbabwe in general and Matabeleland in particular this constitution is about devolution and democracy. We were supposed to fight it out at this conference to make sure we defended these gains but it doesn’t make sense for me to sacrifice all these things over a 10minute presentation by someone.”
He said Prof Ncube was supposed to address the conference. “We are very sad that they boycotted the opening ceremony after working so hard in the project for three years. As Copac we did not want to be involved in the dispute between Professor Mutambara and Professor Ncube.
“We recognise the Maputo declaration of Sadc that makes it clear that Prof Ncube is the principal. We had neither the means nor ability as Copac to remove anyone from the conference,” he said.
Mr Mwonzora said they did not indicate who was supposed to give the vote of thanks because they were not sure if Senate President Cde Edna Madzongwe was going to attend the conference. He said she was the one who was initially supposed to give the vote of thanks.
Meanwhile, by yesterday evening most of the 18 thematic groups had completed their discussions on the draft. “Most of the groups have completed their discussions and will tomorrow report back to plenary,” said Mr Mwonzora said.
He said the thematic groups were set around issues contained in the draft constitution, while participants either chose a group to participate in or were seconded by the political parties or organisations to particular groups.
More than a million people took part in the outreach programme to air their views on the constitution making in the 4 900 meetings held countrywide in 1 980 wards.