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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Inclusive government - Index of articles
  • Spotlight on inclusive government: It's not working - Index of articles
  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Scramble for a Constitution
    Arkmore Kori
    June 01, 2009

    The top key priority of the recently presented Short Term Emergency Recovery Programme (STERP) is to address political and governance issues through facilitating a constitutional making process. Ever since its formation in 1997, the National Constitutional Assembly has been trying to campaign for a new constitution. A tug of war has arisen, and both parties advocate for a 'people driven constitution-. Notwithstanding the tricky questions regarding who are the 'people-, where are they in this conflict and how they are going to 'drive- the constitutional process, more important questions come up: Is this scramble worthwhile in our current situation? Are Zimbabweans starving for a constitution? Do we really need a new constitution now and who cares following it?

    The value of a constitution to a layperson, who is supposed to 'drive- its making, is far-fetched. It is not clear how a new constitution would bring water to the urban population to prevent future cholera crisis. For those that have lost their loved ones in narrow and badly maintained roads such as the Harare-Masvingo highway, it is difficult to see how a constitution would lead to the widening and maintenance of roads to minimise accidents.

    A rural household in Nsenga community, Binga, would think twice if invited to demonstrate for a new constitution because it is difficult to see how it brings food to the table and more importantly, chase away elephants that destroy crops - year in and year out - subjecting them to lingering poverty. Students from tertiary institutions who run battles with the police for demonstrating against high fees would question how, under a new constitution, they will be able to afford their education. Those lucky enough to complete wonder how it would create employment.

    We have seen politicians and the powerful choosing to ignore a constitution, or just amending it to fulfil their wishes. Those who broke the electoral rules by delaying the release of March 2008 election results by at least a month are moving freely in the streets. Under the nose of the Government of National Unity, Southern Africa Development Community and the civil society, farm invasions have continued unabated for almost a month now, and none has been brought to book. We have witnessed some of the most traumatic violation of prison laws in the country-s history, but the culprits are languishing freely in the streets. No one has cared to prosecute them. It takes time and resources to make a constitution, but only a few seconds to breach it, and of course, getting away with it.

    I am not dismissing the importance of a constitution, but it does not warrant such a scramble at the moment. For example, few questions emerge: How can we talk about a new constitution if we are not able to respect the present constitution? What guarantee do we have that the hard-core politicians who have deliberately wrecked the current constitution will respect a new constitution? A new constitution, without a change of behaviour and attitudes of some of our politicians and leaders who see themselves as above the law will not make any difference. Indeed, most would appreciate jostle for building dams and establishing irrigation schemes so that we can have enough, affordable food; competition for resuscitating our industries and economy so that we get employment; competition for providing bursaries, loans or grants for students or scramble for constructing roads, among others. The need for a constitution would inevitably avail itself in the processes of economic and social transition.

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