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vote was the right decision in 2000
ONE of the items currently
permeating through Zimbabwe's public opinion agenda is the "Third Way"
initiative. This idea has been presented within the context of a whole
lot of other developments that have simmered through the country's political
One such issue that
has been smuggled into the third way debate is to do with the February
2000 Constitutional Referendum.
Prominent third way
movers, among them Professor Jonathan Moyo and Jethro Mpofu, have written
suggesting that the "No vote" campaign in that referendum was misplaced.
I disagree. If anything,
the "No vote" was a vote of conscience that laid a solid foundation for
a protracted struggle against a systematic tyranny that the Zanu PF regime
has worked so hard to establish in Zimbabwe.
That Zimbabwe would
be in a better position had the "Yes Vote" prevailed is a claim that has
not been or cannot be substantiated at all. Those who suggest that Zanu
PF would no longer be powerful had the government-sponsored draft constitution
been accepted by the electorate, are either not in the full grasp of the
Zanu PF culture, or are simply omitting reality for convenience's sake.
To bring issues into
an enlightening perspective, it is perhaps necessary to revisit 2000 and
delve into the merits of the "No Vote' campaign and victory.
First, it must be
noted that the process through which the rejected draft constitution came
into being was one in which the fundamental tenet of people power was
In a democracy, the
majority of the people must dominate and determine the process of constitution-making.
This is important in that it ensures that the people's wishes are reflected
in the constitution and that it does not give governments much room to
tamper with the constitution without raising the people's concern. This
was not the case with the process that resulted in the Constitutional
Commission's proposed constitution, which the people rejected.
The commission itself
was appointed on partisan lines by the president. Its time-table was also
set by the president who, again, had the final say on what went into its
In the process, some
fundamental issues raised by the people were ignored and the draft ceased
to be the people's draft, becoming the president's draft.
Were the people wrong
in saying "No" to a document whose production process invalidated their
importance and centrality?
Then there were issues
of content. The draft from the Zanu PF-inspired Constitutional Commission
had numerous provisions that were not only contrary to what the people
wanted but were also dangerous for democracy and development.
One such provision
related to the executive presidency. All Zimbabweans who can clearly see
and read, agree to the fact that the greatest monster within the current
Zimbabwean constitution is the creation of an all-powerful president with
too many powers that render invalid the concept and logic of the need
for checks and balances within the arms of the state.
The commission's draft
still provided for such a dangerously powerful president with wide-ranging
and unchecked powers around key national issues such as appointment and
dismissal of public figures, exercising the prerogative of mercy and dissolving
parliament among others.
There was no way in
which progressive Zimbabweans would have allowed for this perpetuation
of a menacing personality power cult.
To conceal the scars
that blemished it, the draft of the Constitutional Commission had in it
the provision of a prime minister whose function resembled that of a high
While the prime minister
was being described as head of cabinet, the anachronism hovering around
his/her existence was that his/her cabinet was to be chaired by the same
In capping the president's
overriding powers, the commission's draft went on to provide for a rubber-stamp
parliament. Yet one of the most legitimate and imminent needs of Zimbabweans
is redemption from a constitutional edifice in which parliament, the supposed
repository of people power, cannot easily pass a vote of no confidence
in a non-performing government.
Within the same treachery
of coated autocracy, the commission's draft also provided for the creation
of a senate that was virtually toothless. The provision for the senate
was used to portray an impression that the executive president's powers
were to be checked.
However, the senate
provided for was to be so weak that it would not effectively police the
president. As if this was not enough to give the president precedence
over citizens and citizenship, the Bill of Rights that was caged within
the commission's draft was narrow in scope and did not protect certain
rights and freedoms that are key to the preservation of human dignity
The freedom of the
press, the right to education, the right for workers to strike, the right
to health and the right to full gender equality are among fundamental
rights and freedoms that were not covered in the commission's proposed
Bill of Rights.
As if to point out
its real sources of origin, the draft from the Chief Justice (Godfrey)
Chidyausiku-chaired commission also did not provide for a genuinely independent
This weakness alone
pointed to how the draft emanated from within the same circles of perfected
rigging and treachery. Elections would still have been stolen through
that window-dressing draft constitution.
would have still been manipulated.
What was to be expected
with service chiefs declaring that they would be under no obligation to
respect, let alone salute anyone from outside the Zanu PF strait-jacket?
What was to be expected
with the so-called war veterans continuing to take the law into their
The draft would offer
nothing but more rituals of treachery. It was in this light that the "No
vote" campaign was championed.
The victory that translated
from this spirited and informed campaign was no fluke. It was a sweet,
genuine, and significant victory against a system that, for too long,
has been surviving through deception.
A "Yes vote" victory
would have been a prelude for greater deception from a Zanu PF oligarchy
that has dutifully and successfully elevated chicanery into a fine art.
Refusal to acknowledge this reality amounts to negating the essence of
the very foundations of a struggle in which the people of Zimbabwe must
fearlessly confront Zanu PF in order to guarantee a future for the country.
We desperately need
a refreshed struggle platform from which to propel ourselves from the
current state of bondage, which for the sake of a few more years in power,
Zanu PF has visited upon us. But, the solution cannot come from negating
the very foundations of the current struggle against a dictatorship that
is rooted in a warped constitutional order.
is senior programme officer at the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA).
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