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  • Things fall apart?
    Chris Kabwato, Zimbabwe in Pictures
    March 11, 2010

    Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
    Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
    The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
    The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
    The best lack all conviction, while the worst
    Are full of passionate intensity.
    ~ William Butler Yeats, The Second Coming

    A year ago, a friend from the Seychelles brought me a lovely plaque bearing the preamble to his country's constitution. It's a beautiful opening for a constitution saying all the right things that should infuse a document that puts people at the centre of democracy and development. I didn't dare ask Jose why he was giving me this plaque fearing he might refer to the convoluted journey to full democracy my country was taking.

    The Global Political Agreement (GPA) was an unhappy conclusion to what the people of Zimbabwe had said via the ballot on March 29, 2008. We felt cheated that the will of the people had not been respected. But then we were told this was now the realm of realpolitik, hardnosed political decisions had to be made to save lives and to stabilise the economy. We grudgingly accepted this dubious bank cheque.

    Two years later we are now a nation in need of massive doses of Prozac, the cheque is counterfeit. The constitutional process is turning into a farce and the costs to the nation will be deep and long-lasting. The costs will have nothing to do with the price tag of the whole noble exercise.

    Cost this:

    1. At the outset of the process parliament via the Speaker of the House was to take the lead. Increasingly though, it is the executives (government ministers) who have stepped in and taken over the process. In other words the constitution is now being negotiated by politicians as part of the GPA and not a people driven nor representative process;

    2. Civil society has been divided between those who saw an opportunity to influence the process and result and thus chose to participate and those who rejected the whole process as a sham and dismissed it as "not people-driven";

    3. The former ruling party, ZANU PF, has taken a stance to promote the Kariba Draft (this was the agreement cobbled by the three political parties in 2007 as part of the negotiations to resolve the political crisis and is an inherently defective document as many organisations like MISA-Zimbabwe have pointed out);

    4. Schisms and factions have emerged in the wider civil society, the trades union, the student movement, academia and the media.

    But can we continue to dither on this critical matter of the nation's guiding compass? As one analyst asked recently, "Can we honestly expect a defective process to give us the outcome we desire?" Recent statements by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the NCA, respectively, raise key concerns.

    The second coming of the constitution-making process (the first was in 1999) should not be allowed to be an illusion or to break the country apart. Zimbabwe has neither the time nor the resources for "politricks" at this point in our history. A whole generation of young people has grown up to be adults knowing only strife and hunger, and that is not a good omen.

    In relation to the constitution it is time we separate our intellectual and organisational energies from political parties and begin to demand of those in the Government of National Unity, an unambiguous commitment to a genuinely people-driven constitution-making process and a clear time-frame for free, fair and credible general elections.

    There is urgent need for civil society and ordinary citizens to come together under a national congress and chart a common vision around the constitutional process. It will, of necessity, be a painful process for many of us as we would have to set aside our stadium-sized egos and admit our failures and disillusionment, but the process should begin.

    The only certainty we know, and need to remember, is that Zimbabwe will outlive us all and so the living, and those that will come after, deserve a life with dignity.

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