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Right Honourable Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's statement
on the new Constitution
January 17, 2013
Ladies and gentlemen,
This is, without doubt,
a defining moment in our nation's political, social and economic
trajectory. The journey that we have travelled up to this critical
point has been long and arduous.
Indeed, there were occasions
when it seemed there was no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.
However, true to their nature, the people of Zimbabwe demonstrated
grit, determination and will power to create this landmark moment
in the country's history.
The process has been
highly demanding. The nation's collective patience has been
severely tested. However, the people of Zimbabwe refused to entertain
the idea of failure. We are a nation of courageous fighters and
we have demonstrated our capacity for resilience and endurance,
fuelled by an intrinsic desire to change our circumstances for the
The constitution is a
critical charter that defines the relationship between the government
and its people. It is the documentation of the social contract between
the government and the people. It is through the constitution that
the people confer their authority on the government and, in doing
so, they also define the terms by which the government must exercise
Through the constitution,
the people identify and ring-fence their cherished fundamental rights
and freedoms, which they demand to be guarded jealously.
They also define the
political institutions and the manner in which they relate in the
exercise of state power. The running thread in this relationship
is the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances
to ensure transparency, accountability and responsible government.
The people of Zimbabwe
have, therefore, created a document that responds to their demands
for transparency, accountability and good governance.
Nevertheless, as we look
ahead, the true test lies in the implementation of the constitution.
We can have the most beautifully worded constitution in the world
but unless there is serious commitment to implement and uphold its
basic tenets and values, we will have achieved nothing.
It is important, therefore,
as we move forward, that we embrace the spirit of constitutionalism.
This means that we must remain faithful to the principles and values
of the new constitution.
We must uphold the provisions
of this constitution even if the outcome does not favour those who
hold the reins of power. In short, government must be guided by
and uphold the Rule of Law; that the law is supreme and better still,
that the principles and values that underpin the law are even more
There must be strict
adherence to the checks and balances that are infused into the constitution.
It is only by doing so that we can build a political culture that
provides for stability, transparency and economic prosperity. We
must build a culture, not of changing the constitution willy-nilly
to suit our whims, but of allowing the constitution to transform
our political culture.
We must remember
that apart from the challenge of producing
a new constitution, this country is faced with serious social
and economic challenges. These challenges are products of the political
environment affected by a flawed constitutional order. In trying
to fix the political environment through a new constitutional order,
we are therefore laying the foundation for attending to the economic
and social problems.
The political institutions
that we are creating, bound by the principles of transparency and
accountability, will ultimately impact positively on the social
and economic institutions. Therefore, in creating this constitution,
we have chosen the prosperity route over the poverty route.
I must pay homage to
the generation of liberation fighters who led the way in establishing
a constitutional order that delivered independence to the nation
in 1980. The achievement at Lancaster House must never be underestimated
because it remains a landmark moment in the history of this nation.
We will forever be indebted to the sacrifices that were made to
achieve that key moment.
But we all recognised
that the Lancaster House constitution
was not a home-grown document and that it failed to answer the critical
questions for the majority of the people. Although we tried, over
the years, to reform the Lancaster House Constitution, the result
was a patchwork that was unpleasant to the eye. It is this unpleasantness
drove the clamour for a new, home-grown and people-driven constitutional
With the previous generation
having delivered the Lancaster House constitution in 1980 and brought
independence, the challenge rested upon our shoulders to deliver
a new, home-grown and people driven constitution that can usher
democracy. This, we are on the verge of achieving and this is largely
because while we had our differences, we have kept our eyes on the
bigger picture. There are those who will point to weaknesses. They
may be tempted to dismiss the new constitution. It is democratic
to allow them to do so.
However, we should collectively
be mindful of the fact that what we have is a product of multiple
and sometimes divergent views, all of which demanded accommodation.
In such a scenario, it is near impossible to produce a document
that pleases every single person in all its parts. Naturally, there
will be aspects that some people prefer but, on the other hand,
those things might be stridently opposed by other people.
We have learnt, during
this journey, that constitution-making is not an easy and straightforward
process, because people do not always sing a chorus of agreement
on all issues. But we have worked hard to find each other; to accommodate
each other and ultimately, to produce a document that is mutually
agreeable. Should implementation alert us to any areas of improvement,
we will attend to them. Even the brightest student in school is
sometimes required to make corrections.
I would like to pay tribute
to the people of Zimbabwe for their extraordinary patience and resilience.
You know that in the democratic movement we have, from birth, always
fought for a new constitution using peaceful and non-violent means.
What we have is a true testament of the fact that it is possible
to achieve your goals without using violence but relying purely
on peaceful means and the power of persuasion.
I would also
like to thank the men and women who played key roles in the construction
of this new constitution. The list is long but among them are the
COPAC co-Chairpersons and their respective teams, who have worked
tirelessly from the beginning of this process; the Management Committee,
which played a key role in unlocking some of the contentious issues;
the drafters and technical experts who worked under tremendous pressure.
I must thank COPAC staff,
the real foot-soldiers during this process. I would like to pay
tribute to staff and members of COPAC, who worked gallantly but
did not live long enough to see the fruits of their work. Their
work will never be forgotten.
If I have left anyone,
it is by no means deliberate, but allow me, by way of insurance,
to include everyone who played a part in this process.
I would also like to
pay tribute to my fellow principals, whom I know have been patient,
consistent with the spirit of the Zimbabwean people. The principals
have patiently guided their respective parties to navigate the most
difficult parts of this journey, even when it appeared that collapse
Then, of course, there
is a whole array of local and international partners who played
a tremendous role in oiling the wheels of the constitution-making
process. The UNDP and all those who contributed to its pot have
demonstrated extraordinary friendship to the people of Zimbabwe.
process would not have been possible without the guiding hand of
our regional friends in SADC. When this country was on the verge
of an unprecedented political, social and economic calamity, our
regional friends stepped up and came to the rescue. Demonstrating
good neighbourliness, they helped us to negotiate the Global
Political Agreement (GPA) under whose terms this process has
They have patiently and
calmly helped us to navigate the murky waters of negotiation, reiterating,
time and again, the need to ensure completion of the process.
I would like to pay tribute
to the Facilitator, His Excellency President Zuma of South Africa,
for demonstrating firm and impartial leadership in executing his
Now as we stand at this
critical juncture, there is a legitimate expectation by the people
of Zimbabwe and our SADC colleagues, that there will be a new constitution
and that the next elections will be held in accordance with the
terms and spirit of its provisions. We must commit ourselves, therefore,
to hold a free, fair and successful referendum and also, critically,
to ensure the implementation of the new constitution once it is
adopted as the supreme law of the land. We owe it to ourselves as
a people, to our partners and indeed, to future generations.
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