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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis

  • Statement on Constitution Amendment 18 Bill
    Welshman Ncube
    Delivered at House of Assembly September 18, 2007

    Visit the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional Amendment 18

    I rise to make a contribution to the debate on the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No. 18 Bill. I begin by fully and unconditionally endorsing the remarks of my colleague Hon Khupe and wish to add the following.

    I confirm what the Minister of Justice, Leal and Parliamentary Affairs, has said in his statement in respect of the process and content of the negotiations which are taking place between the Government of Zimbabwe and ZANU PF on one hand and the MDC in its collective sense – (Laughter!) –

    For the avoidance of doubt, particularly for those in the media fraternity who keep speaking the language of MDC negotiating as two formations – that is not the case. At the negotiating table there is one MDC.

    For those of our compatriots who love our beautiful country, some might be alarmed and say those of us in the MDC might appear on the face of it to be abandoning the principles we have fully enunciated over the last 8 years on how we believe a new Constitution for Zimbabwe must be made. Let me take the opportunity to explain and enunciate those principles and how they fit in with what we are trying to do in order to resolve the national crisis.

    I can speak authoritatively on these principles because I can say I was there at the beginning of the NCA and the crafting of its principles. For those who are not aware, the very first meeting which conceptualized and began the process of constituting the NCA took place in Belgravia, and was convened by Tawanda Mutasah, attended by Brian Kagoro, Everjoice Win, Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga and myself. Thereafter, the NCA as we know it was constituted and formed.

    In the process of its birth and in trying to define its mission and its guiding principles, it hired as a consultant and retained the services of Justice Ben Hlatshwayo, who was not a judge then, to come and document the same – the foundation of the NCA issues. In the interest of time, that document was then debated and adopted by the task force of the NCA. At that time I was the spokesperson of the NCA and President Tsvangirai was the Chairperson. The NCA agreed that we needed a new constitution for Zimbabwe which would be crafted or written in an open, transparent and participatory manner. In that regard, we as members of the NCA were there to oppose two things. One: the piecemeal amendments to the Constitution of Zimbabwe, Two: the unilateral manner of setting such piecemeal amendments.

    Mr. Speaker, it is important to understand those two principles. Let me say that these two principles were conceptualized, conceived and adopted, not to be verses in a bible. They were strategic and tactical principles which were intended to forge the making of a people-driven constitution. I despair today when I read and hear the attempt to transform these principles into some fundamentalist decrees which, we are told, are to be regarded as completely sacrosanct. As far as we understood them, they were supposed to be means to an end.

    Zimbabwe today, as Hon. Khupe has said, is faced with a national crisis which all of us acknowledge. We might differ as to the causes and sources of that crisis, but I think we all, across the political divide, agree that we are in a crisis. Consequently those of us who love this country are saying that somewhere along the line as a people we lost each other. Notwithstanding the intolerance Hon. Khupe talked about, notwithstanding the anger and emotion, if we are to move forward, Mr. Speaker, we need to find each other. (Mr Zwizwai: Murima imomo) Laughter- What we are attempting to sow within the dialogue that we are engaged in is to find each other. Our contribution to supporting the Amendment Number 18, as to be amended at the Committee Stage as explained by the hon. Minister, is our attempt to say” let us reach out to each other, let us find each other, let us give confidence among ourselves.” If what it takes to find each other is for us to support these amendments, we are prepared and we are supporting these amendments in that context, with the hope that as negotiating teams move on with the rest of the agenda of the dialogue, which the Minister has explained includes the question of a new constitution for Zimbabwe – how to come up with that new constitution; the question of a new Electoral Act – how to come up with it (Mr Mutasa: and the question of sanctions) – the question of how to deal with contentious provisions in POSA and AIPPA, and indeed the question of sanctions. They are on the agenda and we will deal with them. We hope that we will find each other around all these issues.

    When we come back to this house, we will come back with a package which includes resolutions of all the issues which have divided us over the last eight or so years. That is our hope, Mr. Speaker, and it is in that context that we stand before this august house today, taking that step into the dark. I had the privilege, Mr. Speaker, to spend the whole of Saturday in a meeting discussing these issues with President Mutambara and President Tsvangirai – (Laughter) - Mr. Speaker, I was impressed by their commitment to the dialogue process. I was impressed by their deep concern for the suffering of ordinary people of this country (Hon Members: Hear, hear!) – As President Tsvangirai said at that meeting: “There is no such thing as a risk-free political decision”, and therefore when we take this decision, we are fully cognizant of the political risk inherent in it. But we take it with our eyes open in the hope of serving our people. We believe that we cannot continue to conduct politics for the sake of politics. We believe that we must begin to conduct our politics in the service of the people, otherwise it is meaningless.

    Lastly, Mr. Speaker, I want to comment very briefly on the aspect relating to the composition of the Senate which has worried some of my colleagues, in terms of what they perceive to be the disproportionate number of unelected people in the Senate. Unelected in the sense of direct election, in that you have 18 chiefs elected by other chiefs, you have 10 Governors or is it 8 Governors plus 5 appointed by the President. Let me just explain, Mr. Speaker, that when elections were not synchronized, these numbers would have been very problematic, but when you have synchronized elections, you elect your Councilor, you elect your MP, you elect your President. The person who wins the Presidential race then has the right to constitute the government of the day from the day of his or her election. Whereas when the elections were not synchronized, you could have a scenario where one political party could win a Parliamentary election whilst the Presidency is in the hands of another party. So the potential of subverting the government will not happen in the proposal before you. Whoever has been elected President has a mandate for the next 5 years to form a government. So it becomes irrelevant as to whether or not you have these disproportionate numbers of unelected people. I thought I should end by making that explanation.

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