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Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis
society must allow MDC to forge ahead
Jacob Rukweza, Zimbabwe Independent
September 28, 2007
the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional
by the MDC to endorse the controversial Constitutional
Amendment (No 18) Bill has sparked a volley of hysterical outrage
from civic society in Zimbabwe.
arises from the MDC's acceptance of the constitutional amendment
or its perceived failure to object to the passage of the amendment.
which leads the chorus of condemnation of the constitutional amendment,
has accused the MDC of selling out.
NCA insists that as a matter of principle the MDC should have rejected
piecemeal amendments to the current constitution.
condemnation of the MDC's position on the constitutional amendment
by the NCA and a coterie of civic groups would be understandable
in the context of the opposition's pronounced departure from the
principle of a new constitution as a foundation for good governance.
But so far the
MDC has not said anything to the effect that it has abandoned the
agenda of a new constitution for Zimbabwe.
has told party members in particular and Zimbabweans in general,
that the MDC remains loyal to the founding objectives of building
a democratic and prosperous country premised on a new constitution
as the bedrock of a new order.
is, is it not too early for the NCA and its bandwagon of civic groups
to wax hysterical and to condemn the recent constitutional concession
while discounting the direction and outcome of the inter-party talks?
The MDC must be allowed to move on.
talks between Zanu PF and the MDC - which are far from being concluded
- are multifaceted and not singularly centred around Constitutional
Amendment No 18 which, in any case, had already been unilaterally
tabled in parliament by Zanu PF.
The fact that
the ruling party enjoys a two-thirds majority in parliament clearly
means that the amendment could still have passed anyway and with
even worse provisions had the MDC not contributed, albeit minimally.
It may be wrong
at this stage for civic society to condemn the MDC and accuse it
of selling out without bothering to recognise the context within
which the MDC is making these obviously critical concessions. It
must be understood by civic leaders from the onset that the MDC
is a political party and not a pressure group in pursuit of a singular
objective like the NCA.
The MDC unlike
the NCA has a fastidious membership to which it must answer periodically
during election time pertaining to the broader agenda of representative
While the NCA
has no fixed schedule in its pursuit of a new constitution, the
MDC has a defined schedule fixed by existing laws and legitimate
expectations. As things stand the MDC will be expected to account
to its membership in the harmonised election slated for March next
year while the NCA may afford to clamour for a new constitution
without being answerable in any plebiscite.
It appears that
sabre-rattling civic groups were expecting the MDC to adopt an intransigent
attitude in its approach to the current national crisis. In the
absence of tact the MDC may risk being overtaken by political events.
futility of combative obduracy it should be clear to all by now
that the MDC needs the talks as much as the ruling party. Because,
while the talks are meant to address the plague of illegitimacy
for Zanu PF, they are creating a realistic alternative and a tenable
avenue towards a new Zimbabwe for the MDC.
Zanu PF had several extra-democratic alternatives in its pursuit
of the power retention agenda, the alternatives are limited for
the fragmented MDC.
engagements between the MDC, civic society, and trade unions on
one hand and the Zanu PF government on the other have clearly failed
to achieve the desired results in the past.
street protests by the NCA, Woza,
Coalition, the Law Society and others have failed to achieve
fundamental objectives. Besides sustaining their nuisance value,
the protests have only served to maintain the visibility of such
pressure groups while further exposing activists to obvious brutality
by the regime with fatal ramifications in some cases.
The MDC's final
push in June 2003 did not do much to enhance the ordinary people's
struggle for a new and democratic Zimbabwe.
stayaway called by the ZCTU
has proved beyond any reasonable doubt that at the moment confrontation
with the Zanu PF government will not do anything to improve the
situation of the suffering masses. Unfortunately Zimbabweans have
shown that they are not yet ready to take political risks.
The MDC has
awakened to this realisation and the civic movement should allow
the opposition party to move away from the captive and futile strategy
of confrontation to dialogue.
Zimbabwe's civic society which has been humiliated, brutalised and
maligned by the Zanu PF regime is apparently in a vindictive mode
and looking for an opportunity to humiliate Zanu PF in order to
get even with the autocracy. It is becoming palpable that the NCA
and elements in the civic movement were viewing the Sadc-mediated
inter-party talks as a rare opportunity to humiliate Zanu PF by
wanting the MDC to make a new constitution the alpha and the omega
of the inter-party talks.
But those who
have followed the Zanu PF pattern of thinking will concur that it
is wishful thinking if not foolhardy for anyone to realistically
believe that the ruling party will agree to the polemical demand
for a new constitution before elections in March 2008. The implications
of that demand are too glaring for Zanu PF to ignore.
grandstanding as a tactic to wring set concessions has worked with
limited success in addressing delicate political questions of the
day. It may be necessary to briefly take civic society leaders back
to the process of the negotiated constitutional deal between the
Patriotic Front and the Rhodesian Front which brought about Zimbabwe's
Independence in 1980. The Patriotic Front went to Lancaster House
in 1979 with the critical demands including the immediate return
of farm land to the black majority and securing one man one vote
for the black Africans before free and fair elections in 1980.
But when the
negotiations were finally concluded on December 21, 1979 the Patriotic
Front got free and fair elections, the one man one vote concession
but not the land.
House Constitution made it categorically clear that the land question
would not be addressed until after 1990 - 10 years after Independence.
Knowing well that they were not winning the war (never mind claims
to the contrary) the Patriotic Front took the necessary political
risk and endorsed the Lancaster House Constitution. Fortunately,
the Patriotic Front did not have vociferous civic society allies
or a sophisticated membership to accuse them of selling out on the
In those circumstances,
embracing the seemingly deceitful Lancaster House Constitution and
the raft of attendant agreements was the best way forward for the
battle-weary Patriotic Front.
It is important
for the MDC and civic society groups to manage the current fallout
carefully and avoid the trap that results in democratic allies fighting
themselves instead of fighting the Zanu PF dictatorship.
The NCA makes
very scathing claims while attacking the MDC and insinuating that
the MDC is out of touch with ordinary Zimbabweans.
by the NCA has two worrying features. First it exposes a salient
and disquieting belief within the NCA that they are the only genuine
evangelists of constitutional reform because of the mere fact that
they identify themselves as a constitutional assembly.
declaration by the NCA that the claim by one of the MDC formations
that it is closer to the people is hollow and is meant to smuggle
into the fray the mischievous impression that the NCA is comparatively
better connected with ordinary Zimbabweans and therefore more representative
than the MDC.
In their quarrel
with the MDC civic groups should not make impulsive decisions and
reckless utterances that may have the ramifications of polarising
the strategic alliance of democratic forces under the umbrella of
the Save Zimbabwe Campaign as we approach the inevitable 2008 elections.
the MDC for its occasional blunders, civic leaders must be informed
by both history and current developments. But when the talks are
concluded the long suffering Zimbabweans will be there to judge
the MDC on the basis of the final outcome.
* Jacob Rukweza
is a sub-editor at the Zimbabwe Independent.
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