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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Statement on Referendum
    National Constitutional Assembly (NCA)
    March 20, 2013

    1. The conduct of the referendum was neither credible nor satisfactory. This arises from the following facts, among others:

    • The notice period given was inadequate and displayed lack of respect for the people. It was extreme arrogance for the President to admit this fact on the day he was casting his vote when he had deployed all state resources to resist attempts by some citizens to delay the vote.
    • Copies of the Draft constitution were not available in reasonable numbers.
    • State and donor resources were only available for the “Yes” campaign.
    • The “Yes” campaign used hate speech. For example the Prime Minister described the No campaign as being made up of “nhinhi”[Sunningdale] and those intending to vote “No” as having mamhepo(evil spirits)[Bulawayo].
    • The police disrupted many “NO” campaign meetings and the atmosphere was not conducive to public meetings by the “NO” campaign to the extent that many voters had no access to the “No” message.
    • ZEC was not independent. For example, it failed to play its role in terms of electoral law to monitor media coverage.
    • The judiciary was not independent. The courts dismissed, on suspicious grounds, every application meant to make the referendum more democratic.

    2. The NCA does not accept that the YES vote means an endorsement by the people of Zimbabwe of a new constitution. The draft Constitution is undemocratic and will remain undemocratic and unacceptable when it becomes the constitution of Zimbabwe. An undemocratic constitution does not become democratic merely on account of voters being misled by political leaders into a ritual of just voting “YES”.

    3. A constitution-making process does not become “people-driven” merely on account of people being taken through rituals where they attend meetings and say what they have been told to say nor is this achieved by taking the people through the rituals of a referendum where they are told to vote “Yes”.

    • 4. In this regard, the NCA wishes to be very categoric and unambiguous: we reject in toto the notion that Zimbabweans have spoken and have accepted the Draft Constitution. We hold that the “Yes” vote is illegitimate. The referendum result is therefore illegitimate and not acceptable to us. This is because:
    • 95% of the “Yes” voters had neither seen nor read the Draft constitution.
    • 95% of the “Yes” voters knew nothing about the contents of the Draft Constitution.
    • The “Yes” voters, by their own admission, said they were voting “Yes” because they were following orders from political leaders to do so.
    • The voters had not been afforded an opportunity to hear and/or listen to the points of view of the “No” campaign. The “No” campaign was systematically denied access to the public media while messages of the “Yes” vote were the order of the day. The only time a “Yes” will mean a “Yes” to a Draft Constitution is when voters have been exposed to the contents, have heard opposing views and have genuinely voted “Yes”. Where voters are prevented by self-serving politicians from accessing alternative views, a “Yes” is invalid.
    • The 179 489 voters who rejected the Draft Constitution knew what they were doing: they had all been subjected to a “Yes” campaign but rejected it. Many of them had considered the arguments for the “No” campaign and embraced them.
    • The 56 627 rejected votes voted “NO” either by writing it or spoiling the ballot in other ways.
    • There are over 7,5 million Zimbabweans with National IDs and this is the eligible voter population. The reported 3,3 million who voted is just 44%. What is the view of 56%? This is clearly voter apathy. In any event, the claim that 3,3 million people voted is a fraud by ZEC. To claim that there was close to a million more voters in the referendum than in the March 2008 harmonised elections is to take the public for fools.
    • In matters such as the constitution, the focus must not be just on eligible voters but on the entire population. There are about 13 million Zimbabweans. The 95% of the 3 million Zimbabweans who took the irresponsible decision of voting “Yes” to a document that they had neither seen nor read cannot bind the conscience of the rest and future generations. Those who are not eligible to vote should have been afforded the opportunity to read the Draft Constitution and contribute to debate, thereby influencing the formation of a genuine national opinion. This did not happen principally because the current political leaders were pushing a narrow, self-serving and partisan agenda.
    • As soon as more people get to read the draft Constitution (or Constitution, when it gets enacted) they will realise the folly of the “Yes” vote and will join those rejecting it. That point will be reached soon and it will be apparent to the generality of the people that our country does not have a democratic constitution, notwithstanding the referendum of 16 March, 2013.
    • ZEC aided the “Yes” vote. First, by misinterpreting the intentions of thousands of voters in rural areas, particularly Mash East, Mash Central and Masvingo who indicated that they wanted their vote to be put on “President Mugabe”. These voters should have been turned away but ZEC officials interpreted this as a “Yes” vote when we all know that the President`s vote is his secret. Secondly, ZEC did not turn away thousands of voters who asked, on arrival, what the voting was all about. ZEC officials in rural areas responded that it was all about voting “YES”.

    5. Just as Zimbabwe has been under the undemocratic Lancaster House Constitution, henceforth it shall be under an undemocratic GPA constitution. The Yes vote merely means a change from Lancaster and does not mean a change to a democratic constitutional order. For instance, there is no way Zimbabweans can be said to have said “Yes” to:

    • retaining a powerful President with unlimited powers and who appoints every state official including Ministers, judges, ambassadors, permanent secretaries, Commissions and so on.
    • a huge and expensive government with over 350MPS, given the state of our economy.
    • not electing a new President whenever the office of President becomes vacant in the next 10 years and leaving this crucial decision to a political party.
    • A Bill of Rights merely listing rights without effective mechanisms for their enforcement.

    6. From the foregoing, there can only be one answer: the crusade for a new, democratic and people-driven constitution has to continue. The NCA will intensify its efforts for a rejection of the so-called new Constitution just as it has, for over 14 years, campaigned for the rejection of the Lancaster House Constitution. Given its experience and its growing base, the NCA believes that it will take less time for the people of Zimbabwe to be convinced to throw away the so-called new Constitution and introduce a truly democratic and people-driven constitution.

    7. The NCA dismisses, with the contempt it deserves, utterances by the political leadership which indicate the 16 March, 2013 vote as historic. It was not. It was a dark page in our history as it demonstrated the continuing sickness of our society where people are taken for granted by politicians. The two leaders, the President and the Prime Minister, exhibited lack of principled and moral leadership: they know so well that the “YES” vote had nothing to do with the constitution but they have the temerity to proclaim it as historic. It is this kind of leadership which has brought our country down. If the two of them genuinely believe that the “YES” vote was on the constitution, then their heads must be examined! We believe they are not genuine!

    8. The NCA will, in the next few months, convene meetings of its membership, including its Congress, to review its strategies and map the way forward. In this regard, the NCA is conscious of the fact that the purported “Yes” vote of 16 March, 2013 has a fundamental bearing on the future strategies of the NCA. Accordingly, the NCA membership will decide whether or not the current NCA framework is suitable for the big battle that lies ahead. The battle will be confrontational because we realise that a ZANU(PF) joined by the MDC in hoodwinking the general public is a formidable enemy of our quest for a new, democratic, open, prosperous, just and caring society. The two political formations have no monopoly in determining the destiny of our country. From the credible base built over the years, the NCA will double its efforts to win the hearts and minds of the people of Zimbabwe. One immediate practical step is that this Press Statement will be printed as a flier, translated into all main languages and distributed throughout the country. We will not rely solely on Press coverage. In addition, the NCA “NO VOTE” campaign flier will be edited merely to remove the words “VOTE NO” and printed again and distributed. Our campaign against the so called New Constitution will be permanent and will only stop when our country adopts a truly democratic and people-driven constitution. The new NCA strategies will be finalised by the time a new government takes office in July and will be announced publicly within a month of the taking of office of that government.

    9. We reject as nonsensical the claim by some MDC leaders that what remains now is to build a culture of constitutionalism. Constitutionalism cannot be built on the base of an undemocratic constitution. More seriously, does constitutionalism not start with a credible constitution-making process? Once we start with the culture of not respecting the people by asking them to vote “Yes” to a document they have not seen, are we not undermining constitutionalism from the start?

    10. The NCA experience shows that it does not work to rely on others to push for what one believes in. The NCA shall rely on itself to do everything possible to ensure that one day we celebrate the adoption of a truly democratic and people-driven constitution.

    11. We urge the people of Zimbabwe, including those who voted “YES” to take time to read the so called new Constitution and thereafter take further time to consider our arguments against the Draft Constitution. This will enhance democratic growth and ensure that the next referendum on a Draft Constitution will be legitimate.

    12. We accept that the country must now move to the election and urge Zimbabweans to vote peacefully.

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