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case for a democratic constitution
THE 2005 parliamentary
elections have come and gone. Whether they were rigged or "free and
fair" is neither here nor there.
It is as immaterial
that Zanu PF won the election as it is that the Movement for Democratic
Change (MDC) lost the election. The material outcome of that election
is that Zimbabwe as a country and its inhabitants were the biggest losers.
Where a democratic
dispensation does not obtain, the will of the people will not prevail.
Those political parties that participated in this election including Zanu
PF and the MDC were taking people for a ride and hoping to salvage the
most from the political charade.
Zanu PF is now claiming
to have garnered a two-thirds majority in the election. This is being
deliberately disingenuous. The party by fair means or foul got 78 seats
in an elective parliament of 120 seats. Simple arithmetic clearly shows
that 78 is less than two-thirds of 120, which is 80 seats.
To claim a two-thirds
popular mandate is therefore tantamount to no less than political fraud
and electoral rape. Zanu PF’s claim of the two-thirds majority is based
on borrowing two or three seats from the 30 seats appointed by the president
without an electoral mandate.
This may be legal
in terms of the present constitution but it remains undemocratic all the
same. It is doubtful whether the spirit of the constitution ascribes the
30 seats appointed by the president to a given political party. If that
were the case it would only serve to underline the deficiency, unsuitability
and undesirability of the present constitution. In technical terms, those
appointed members should be nothing more than alternate MPs with restricted
If Zanu PF is as popular
as it claims, then it should have won the two-thirds majority from the
If they hold that
the elections were free and fair, then they should accept
the people’s verdict
which denied them the two-thirds majority as their free expression. To
act otherwise would be to flout the will of the people and behave like
bad losers. The claim of a two-thirds majority therefore does not pass
the test of legitimacy based on either consent or the popular will of
Zanu PF will obviously
argue that their claim is based on the provisions of the current constitution.
But was that constitution ever subjected to the electorate to confer legitimacy
on it? Is it the will of the electorate that the president arrogates to
himself the equivalent of one third of the power of the electorate to
appoint MPs of his choice? What brand of democracy would that be?
Fair and fine, even
the devil himself and the numerous tin-pot dictators may have their own
"constitutions" and their brand of the rule of law but the bottom
line for a truly democratic constitution is the involvement of the populace
in crafting the constitution — a people- driven constitution as opposed
to an imposed one.
We may have whatever
constitution but it has to pass the legitimacy test. If it does not, then
it cannot be democratic. Dictators like Saddam Hussein used to boast of
over 95% popular support in elections but that was not a true reflection
of the will of the people of Iraq.
The same applies to
the former communist regimes in Eastern Europe that used to invariably
lay claim to electoral victories in excess of 90% of the ‘electorate’.
But when the people finally spoke as they will inevitably do in Zimbabwe,
those huge majorities vanished into thin air!
according to the voters roll used for the March 2005 General Election,
comprises approximately 5,7 million registered voters. It is common cause
that inclusive in this roll are over three million Zimbabweans in the
diaspora who are either economic or political refugees. This clearly represents
almost 50% of the registered voters by any means of calculation. What
sort of legitimacy can Mugabe claim, which is based on less than 50% of
When this reality
is taken into account, Zanu PF’s 78 seats translate to less than a 33%
electoral mandate which is a far cry from the two thirds they claim to
have secured. What sort of democracy would justify a political party or
an individual for that matter to claim the right to change a people’s
destiny by tampering with the constitution on the basis of less than 33%
electoral support? Are we talking of genuine democracy? This is democracy
— Zanu PF style, characterised by the chastisement of more than 60% of
the provincial chairpersons for daring to think differently. Just as President
Mugabe correctly maintains that the West does not have a monopoly of democratic
values, neither does he or his political party hold that monopoly. Democracy,
whether in the West or in Zimbabwe, should be characterised by the unfettered
expression of the will of the electorate which was obviously not the case
in the just- ended election.
If Zimbabweans in
the diaspora are not qualified to vote, why on earth should their names
be retained on the voters roll? Would it not make sense to compile a voters
roll of only those citizens of voting age resident in the country? Can
the Zanu PF government claim to represent people, whose names are on the
voters roll but are denied the right to vote? Is there consent from the
disenfranchised people for Zanu PF to purport to act on their behalf when
the party talks of the will of the electorate? Those political parties
that participated in the elections should respond to these very pertinent
It is plain to all
Zimbabweans that the result of this election will not bring respite to
the country and its suffering people. How long are Zimbabweans prepared
to wallow in poverty at the whims of undemocratic leaders and political
parties? Zimbabwe does not belong to President Mugabe or his political
party for that matter. If that were the case why would they bother calling
elections at all? If they call those elections then it is incumbent upon
them to respect the will of the electorate even if it denies them the
two thirds majority. Otherwise they become guilty of being bad losers!
Just as Zanu PF had
a legitimate right to advocate land reform (never mind the implementation
and outcome and the corruption associated with it!) to correct historically
engendered inequities, the people of Zimbabwe have an even greater legitimate
and sovereign right to demand constitutional reform to correct the democratic
inadequacies and deficiencies that have plagued Zimbabwe since Independence
constitution should serve as a contract between those who wield power
in the name of the people on the one hand and the people themselves on
the other as the custodians of the power and the right to be governed
well. Democracy can never prevail in the absence of such a political and
social contract that confers legitimacy on a political dispensation. The
people of Zimbabwe have never had such a contract. The British-imposed
Lancaster House Constitution cannot by any stretch of imagination be considered
to be such a contract.
To argue about free
and fair elections and their outcome in the absence of a homegrown national
contract is at best to miss the point of the true meaning of democracy
and at worst an unscrupulous and irresponsible attempt to usurp the people’s
sovereign right to demand accountability of those who govern them on their
is the Chairman of the Zimbabwe Liberators Platform.
the ZLP fact
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