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Law Society of Zimbabwe
October 31, 2010
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More than a
year ago, in February 2009, the Council of the Law Society of Zimbabwe
decided to participate in the constitution-making process which
began with the signing of the Global
Political Agreement and is continuing today.
The Council's decision
was taken after careful deliberation. The Law Society represents
all the lawyers in Zimbabwe. Its role, under section 53 of the Legal
Practitioners Act, is to represent the views of the legal profession
and to promote reforms in the law. There can be no greater reform
in the law than the preparation of a new constitution, and the Law
Society and its members have a vital interest in the process: the
new constitution will determine whether and to what extent human
rights will be respected in Zimbabwe, whether the judiciary will
be independent, and whether lawyers will be free to protect their
clients' rights and interests; in short, whether the rule of law
will be maintained. Moreover, the Law Society is in a unique position
to aid the constitutional process. It is a non-political body, so
its decisions are not affected by partisan politics. Through its
members it is the greatest repository of legal skills in the country,
and through its contacts with other professional bodies it can call
on legal expertise from elsewhere in the region.
All this persuaded the
Council that the Law Society should take the lead in putting forward
proposals for the new constitution. These proposals, the Council
considered, would be best presented in the form of a draft constitution.
The Law Society began
the process by discussing constitutional issues with its members
at the Winter School in July 2009. In August that year the Society
commissioned researchers to study the 17 thematic areas that had
been identified by an All-Stakeholders' Conference organised by
the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC). After
much work and debate, these themes were discussed at a conference
held concurrently with the Society's Summer School in 2009. Assisting
in these debates and discussions were constitutional experts from
inside and outside Zimbabwe. Of these I should particularly mention
and thank Professor Christina Murray of the University of Cape Town,
Professor Jeffrey Jowell Q.C., Mr Patrick M. Mtshaulana a South
African advocate and Mr Mkhululi Nyathi. Their expertise and guidance
were invaluable in developing and refining the Society's proposals.
Next, the Council engaged
a group of drafters from amongst its members to capture the views
that had been expressed and to encapsulate them in a draft constitution.
The draft they produced was discussed further at a conference in
May this year and was further refined as a result of the opinions
and suggestions put forward at that conference.
The result is the draft
constitution which I present today.
In preparing this draft,
the Law Society has tried to produce a constitution that will create
a binding social contract between all the people of Zimbabwe, one
which will take account of the country's past and its present, and
will endure to shape future generations.
The draft seeks to entrench
multi-party democracy in Zimbabwe, with significant power devolved
to the provinces. A strong Declaration of Rights and a clear separation
of powers will protect peoples' freedom against encroachment by
the State, but at the same time the Government will have sufficient
power to carry out its functions effectively.
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