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under fire for rejecting new constitution
Muleya, The Zimbabwe Independent
November 03, 2006
Mugabe has come under fire for rejecting growing calls for full
constitutional reform, claming that the current British-made Lancaster
House constitution was "home-grown and sacrosanct".
this week that Mugabe’s remarks last Friday to church leaders represented
a crude attempt to falsify history and trade in deception for short-term
political gain. They observed that it was alarming for someone who
postures as a revolutionary to claim that a conservative "cease-fire"
document like the Lancaster House constitution was home-made and
Dr Ibbo Mandaza, a backroom delegate to the Lancaster House conference
from September to December 1979 in Britain, said the current constitution
was a "compromise" document in which competing interests had to
be balanced by the negotiators. He said the history of the Lancaster
House conference was well-documented.
"It was a compromise
document because the Patriotic Front was forced by circumstances
to accept entrenched clauses in it that otherwise they did not want,
for example the clauses that land could not be taken for the first
10 years of Independence and the reserved seats for whites," Mandaza
States pressured nationalist leaders to sign and in the end it became
a give-and-take document."
down on December 18, 1979 between the Zimbabwe-Rhodesian government
of Bishop Muzorewa, nationalist leaders from the Patriotic Front,
and the British government represented by Lord Carrington.
when the Patriotic Front delegation was packing its bags to return
to base on December 19," Mandaza recalled, "envoys arrived from
Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania to tell (Robert) Mugabe (the Zanu
leader) and (former Zapu leader Joshua) Nkomo that they had to sign.
As a result of this and many other events, on December 22, with
much reluctance and trepidation, Mugabe and Nkomo signed."
confirmed this at the time.
"Even as I signed
the document I was not a happy man at all," he said. "I felt we
had been cheated to some extent and that we had agreed to a deal
which would to some extent rob us of the victory that we had hoped
to have achieved in the field."
Nkomo was also
unhappy, so were other nationalist leaders. But they too signed
because the battlefront stalemate had to be broken. The commander
of Zanla, Zanu’s military wing, Josiah Tongogara, was widely quoted
at the time as having insisted that: "We just have to have a settlement.
We can’t go back empty-handed."
Moyo, former Information minister and analyst, said he was shocked
by Mugabe’s remarks.
and outrageous for Mugabe to say the Lancaster House constitution
was home-grown and sacrosanct. First, it flies in the face of what
he said after the signing of the document," Moyo said.
ignoramus knows it was a compromise document. Mugabe only changed
his mind when he came to power and inherited the repressive apparatus
of the Rhodesian colonial state. After gaining control of such brutal
instruments as the State of Emergency laws, the Law and Order (Maintenance)
Act and others that he used to entrench his rule under the cloak
of constitutionalism, he conveniently forgot what he had said earlier."
Writing in the
book, Zimbabwe: The Political Economy of Transition, 1980 to 1986,
Mandaza, retracing the road to the Lancaster House Conference, said
the final agreement was a setback for the liberation movement.
House Agreement constituted a substantial setback for the Patriotic
Front, at least in terms of the broad objectives that the national
liberation movement had set for itself in the course of the armed
struggle," he said.
white settler colonial state was not to be dismantled. On the contrary…a
British governor (Lord Soames) would represent the return of British
rule for a brief period to ensure that a suitable and acceptable
black government came to power. Secondly, the Patriotic Front was
now deprived of the possibility of winning undiluted and total power
as would be expected in a decolonisation process. Third, the colonial
socio-economic structures would remain intact. The land issue remained
of constitutional reform, Moyo said, was typical.
"He has always
preferred piecemeal amendments rather than a comprehensive reform
agenda through a popular process. That’s why he initially opposed
the setting up of the constitutional commission in 1999 and only
agreed at the eleventh hour after which he was dragged kicking and
screaming to appoint the commission," Moyo said.
Mugabe and his party withdrew political support for the process
and did not bother to campaign for the draft. In the end the rejection
of the draft was a major victory for Mugabe — and not those opposition
and civic groups who opposed the draft without understanding the
politics at play — and he is only showing it openly now that he
Moyo said if
the draft constitution had been adopted, political change would
have been secured.
said Mugabe was now celebrating the rejection of the draft constitution
— which he thinks was an attempt to legislate him out of office
— in a manner that could further damage his already battered credibility.
"To say the
current constitution was home-made and sacrosanct is inherently
irrational. Many fallen heroes of the struggle must be turning in
their graves in shame over such comments," he said.
defiling whatever little remains positive in his controversial legacy
and portraying himself as a phoney nationalist or revolutionary
now betraying his true colours."
leaders, Mugabe said the current constitution was just as good as
a home-grown one because of amendments.
"It was after
the war that we got the British to preside over a conference to
transfer power (to us). It was not a British constitution; it was
not a constitution foisted on us by the British, no. We demanded
one man one vote; that’s what we got," Mugabe said.
never be another constitution so dear, so sacrosanct. True there
might be amendments necessary to make, let us say so, but to say
this is not home-grown is as if the British imposed this on us."
amendments had been made to "consolidate national unity". He said
his party was prepared to make more amendments, but would resist
another major constitutional reform process after the rejection
of the state-sponsored draft constitution of 2000.
constitution has been amended 17 times since 1980, many of the changes
aimed at enhancing Mugabe’s powers, diminishing the authority of
the courts and closing democratic space. More amendments are being
mulled. Critics say the plethora of amendments show the constitution
is deeply flawed.
The United States
constitution — the oldest written constitution in the world — has
been amended 27 times since 1787.
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