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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Philip Pasirayi on Rules for our Rulers
    Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
    April 26, 2010

    Zimbabwe's constitution making process has been dogged by squabbling over funding and process while the issues of content that equally matter have taken a back seat. On this edition of Rules for our Rulers SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to Philip Pasirayi from the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe. CCDZ has been active in organising constitutional outreach meetings in remote rural areas while risking intimidation and threats from local leaders loyal to ZANU PF.

    Pasirayi says Zimbabweans want a multi-party system where their freedoms can be guaranteed, presidential office terms limited, separation of powers within the three arms of government, the Judiciary, Executive and the Legislature. He challenged people to take part in the outreach exercise to have their views heard. This he said is because politicians always prefer exploiting an ignorant population.

    Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to the programme Rules for our Rulers. This week we speak to Philip Pasirayi who is the co-ordinator for the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ). Mr. Pasirayi thank you for joining us on the programme.

    Philip Pasirayi: Thank you for having me Lance, thank you.

    Guma: Right now obviously on this programme we look at constitutional issues and we understand your organisation has planned some constitutional outreach meetings for Mahusekwa that's on Tuesday and Mudzi on Thursday. Talk us through this, what is this all about?

    Pasirayi: The constitutional outreach meetings that CCDZ is holding in various communities throughout the country are meant to sensitise communities, to sensitise people on the tenets of a democratic constitution because we understand that a democratic constitution is key or is central to good governance so we are moving around the country but concentrating mostly in Mashonaland, the Midlands and Manicaland Provinces, as well as Masvingo to raise awareness amongst the public on their role, the role that the public play in the writing a of a new constitution. So basically that's what we are doing.

    Guma: Now we already have the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee, COPAC, they have their own outreach programme which for several months now has been put off over different forms of squabbling. Can you differentiate, what is the difference between what COPAC is supposed to be doing and what you are doing?

    Pasirayi: In terms of raising awareness on people's rights, on the role of the ordinary Zimbabwean in the constitution making process, let's be frank to say that the Parliamentary Select Committee is doing nothing apart from placing an advert here and there on air but there's nothing much, there is nothing beyond that. So our role as the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe, working in partnership with other civic society partners, we are holding outreach, an outreach programme that is meant to define the role of the ordinary citizen, because I will tell you Lance, that what is happening as well is a deliberate misinformation.

    This fact that it is only a few people who are supposed to give their views to COPAC and also the fact that the whole process of constitution making has been politicised. You hear the political parties are saying this which is not the way it should happen. Every citizen, every Zimbabwean has got a right to participate in this process, every citizen has got a right to have his or her views taken on board so that they get reflected in the new constitution. So basically that is the thrust we are taking. We are educating the public, we are telling them that they have got a role to play in the writing of a new constitution for the country.

    Guma: The constitutional outreach meetings that you've planned for Mahusekwa and Mudzi, you are saying they will go ahead despite threats and intimidation of CCDZ staffers by the local partisan leadership? Tell us about that, who is threatening you?

    Pasirayi: Yes we are being threatened, we are being threatened, you agree with me that in these communities we are working in, there's been a lot of violence that has been taking place targeting civil society activists, targeting political activists from the formerly opposition Movement for Democratic Change. So we continue to experience that, only last week our Programme Officer Vivian Masiyambiri was in Mahusekwa trying to mobilise people for the meeting which is scheduled for tomorrow, but she was called for a meeting by a group of 17 people who threatened her with violence and said that any CCDZ person who comes to attend that meeting will bear the consequences.

    So that is what we are saying - to say this new constitution is for Zimbabweans, it is not for political parties, it's not for, it's for Zimbabweans, so that is the message we are taking. We are even inviting, for your own information, we are even inviting those hostile groups, we extended, we have been extending invitations to district co-ordinating committees of ZANU PF as well as the MDC, we have been inviting war veterans, we have been inviting these community leaders but the fact is that some of them continue or remain to be hostile to this civic education which is meant to liberate the people, which is meant to sensitise people on what their rights are.

    Guma: Still talking about these threats and intimidation, give us a sense of countrywide how is it like? We are hearing reports about militias being deployed, we are hearing about people being intimidated to vote for the Kariba Draft, give us an assessment of the countrywide situation. How is it like?

    Pasirayi: Yes in communities where we are working with also experience that. We can authoritatively say that there is violence which is taking place but we cannot compare it to the violence that took place in the run-up to the presidential election, last year but one, but the fact is that there is violence which is taking place but a lot of it is covert. There are militia groups which have been deployed, some of the bases, the youth militia bases that were used in the run-up to the presidential election have been reactivated so you find out that, there is a case that we reported on, we did a statement two weeks ago, a teacher at Dandara Primary School in Murewa had his home besieged by ZANU PF activists and they wanted to take him.

    This happened in the middle of the night, in the dead of the night, they wanted to take him to a nearby base which was used to torture people in the run-up to the presidential election run off in June 2008. So violence is there but what we cannot do is to compare the violence that is happening now with the violence that took place then, but violence is there and it's being perpetrated by the same people. Like I told you that we had our officer who went to Mahusekwa to try to extend invitations even to some of these hostile groups but what do they do, they start to interrogate her, they start to quiz her, they start to demand all sorts of information including our funders and our board members, their physical addresses and all sorts of things. So intimidation is there, violence is there - we can confirm that because we have experienced it ourselves in these communities where we are working.

    Guma: What is the motivation because this is not the actual election? We are looking forward to having a new constitution that will then lead to fresh elections so in trying to deny this process moving forward, what is the possible ZANU PF motive here?

    Pasirayi: The motive for ZANU PF is that people should not know the truth, so they want, it's a strategy to keep people in the darkness. So if people do not know about their rights, if people do not know that they have got a right to participate in the making of a new constitution, it means we remain ignorant, the whole country is ignorant and we are taken advantage of by these politicians. But this is what they have done for far too long and we are saying that the people have got a right to know. The people must say whatever they want to get in the new constitution so that we have a document that reflects our wishes in Zimbabwe.

    We want more multi-party-ism we want our freedoms to be guaranteed by a new constitution, we want separation of powers, not the current situation where we have got an unlimited President in terms of Office, in terms of Office where we don't have separation of powers, where we have got all the powers vested in one individual, in one arm of government. So we are saying that these people must be told the truth, the people must be enlightened on what their rights are so that they are not taken advantage of.

    Guma: What do you make of the process being lead by COPAC, apart from the excuses over funding and other things that have delayed the outreach, the whole process, because groups like the NCA were attacking, saying it's too dominated by the politicians, what do you make of this process yourself?

    Pasirayi: This process is not the best we can have, even if you try to analyse Article Six of the Global Political Agreement, there is no scope for public participation. It's concentrated in the politicians, in the political circles. So what we are saying is that this process, there is a lot of politicisation that has taken place. The politicians want to dominate the process but it's entirely up to us as Zimbabweans to demand our right to participate and to demand what is ours. It presents an opportunity for us, it's not the best that we can have but it presents an opportunity where we can get in there and demand what we want in terms of the new document because we must not jump the gun, this is the process that has been laid out, we also have pro-democracy elements within the inclusive government and we should continue to engage those pro-democracy elements within the inclusive government.

    I'm talking here of the Directors as well as the Ministers appointed by the Movement for Democratic Change, these are guys that we've been with in the trenches, they know what we want as Zimbabweans, they know what we want as civic society, that we need, when we talk about a new democratic constitution that this is what we are saying. So we must continue to engage those people until what we want is achieved. So that is what we are saying, this is not a perfect process but it's a process that gives us an opportunity where we can come in and continue to push for our demands. The demand for separation of powers, the recognition of civil and political rights as well as economic rights placed at the same level, respect and recognition of child rights, people political rights including the right to vote. We have not been having that for a long time now and it's been 30 years into Independence, we need to say this is the break and we are defining a, we are charting a new way forward for Zimbabwe, our best honest democratic constitution.

    Guma: I was looking at some of the questionnaires that are going to be used by the rapporteurs and this outreach team and I raised this issue with one of the co-chairs of COPAC, Edward Mukosi, that these questionnaires seem to be very vague, they seem to be very complex and ordinary people in the rural areas are not going to understand them. Have you had the chance to look at what they are going to be using and also if I may ask you, you are working in communities like Mudzi and Mahusekwa how is it like when you try and reach out to people who maybe their level of education is not as the same as maybe some of the people driving this process? How do you break this down and make it simple?

    Pasirayi: Well that's what we've been saying, that they should not be used, the talking points. The talking points should not confine people in their thinking and in their participation in this whole process, the outreach process. What we are telling communities is that, yes the Parliamentary Select Committee will come with talking points but the people must not feel limited by these talking points, they must air their views, they must speak out in terms of what exactly they want, so we do not expect the outreach teams, this COPAC, to go out there and start to read out the questions or the talking points to the public.

    We are going to have a situation whereby in those communities where we have reached, they will be told that this is what we want, we don't want to work within the confines of what you have said because the people must feel free to speak to every other issue that they think should be put in the new constitution and it's entirely up to the drafter to actually now discern whether the people's contribution can get into the constitution.

    Well because, in some instance people can talk about the fact that like we have experienced during our road shows that we have been having throughout these provinces I talked to you about, that people will say we want our children not to be sent away because they fail to pay school fees. Now you as a drafter, you'd then know that they are talking about the right to education you see, so you then need to have technical expertise and actually demonstrate that this issue can be an issue to get into the constitution, this issue is not a constitution issue.

    Guma: So do you think maybe that this drafting of these talking points is an attempt to control what people are going to be contributing?

    Pasirayi: I wouldn't say that because well, let's face it, there are some people who are going to be guided really accordingly in terms of their contribution. I think COPAC has done it in good faith to say that we need to guide people in what they are going to say about traditional leaders, in what they are going to say about human rights, in what they are going to say about women's rights, but what our message to the people is that they must not feel confined, they must not feel limited in terms of their contribution.

    They must say whatever they want, or whatever they think should be enshrined in the new constitution and its entirely up to the drafters or the drafting committee, which we understand is made up of experts, to then decide on which matters get into the constitution, which matters are constitutional matters without leaving out the people's views as happened in 1999. We had a situation whereby the Chidyausiku Commission ignored people's views and took on board the views of the political elite and what did that lead us to? It led us to the rejection of the draft. So we are saying that let us not squander this opportunity of again by leaving out people's views.

    Guma: OK, final question for you Mr Pasirayi, I see here from your communication about the outreach meetings in Mahusekwa and Mudzi that you are actually also inviting representatives from other organisations to join in, so explain this, how are you working with the other groups?

    Pasirayi: We are working well with the other groups. In that statement we have mentioned the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, we have mentioned also the Legal Resources Foundation, we are doing collaboration, a lot of collaboration on our constitutional outreach and there is a lot that we are sharing in common you know in terms of what we are campaigning for, in terms of the issues that we are campaigning for. For instance, the separation of power within the three arms of government, the Judiciary, Executive and the Legislature.

    We are also advocating for women's rights, we are also advocating for child's rights, we are advocating for civil and political rights. So these are the issues that these organisations are also advocating for and we saw it fit to collaborate in implementing these programmes so that we have to maximise results, we achieve maximum results. So tomorrow, in Mahusekwa we are going there with colleagues from Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition as well as Legal Resources Foundation and for the meeting on Thursday we are also going there with our partners.

    I think these two organisations and the Zimbabwean human rights organisation ZimRights who are going to be talking about human rights, the Declaration of Rights and the need for the new Declaration of Rights in the new constitution to be justiciable. If people have got a right to health, when that right has been violated, they must have the legal backing to approach the Court so that right can be remedied or can be addressed or can be redressed. So those are the issues that we are going to be talking about and these partners, we have been working with them since last year in October in terms of our constitutional outreach programme.

    Guma: That there was Philip Pasirayi, he's the Co-ordinator for the Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe, otherwise known as CCDZ. Mr. Pasirayi thank you for joining us on Rules for our Rulers.

    Pasirayi: Oh thank you so much Lance.

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