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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Will the real people please stand
    Rejoice Ngwenya
    July 06, 2011

    There are several things that National Constitutional Assembly-s Lovemore Madhuku and Paul Mangwana of COPAC inadvertently share. Both men are chairpersons of constitutional research bodies, driven by a passion for constitutional law. They also have a sinister obsession with the phrase 'people-driven-, albeit for different reasons. Their egos seem to thrive on incessant front page appearances. In the quest to outdo each other for attention, the two lawmen insist that the current constitutional process is either people-driven [Mangwana] or not people-driven [Madhuku]. That leaves me and you, mere mortals, in a state of semantic quandary as to which people these learned men are grappling about. As with literary tradition, I turn to Wikipedia that describes people as 'a plurality of human beings or other beings possessing enough qualities constituting personhood.-

    My prognosis is that one of these 'qualities- referred to above is the ability to think or reason independently. But because constitutionalism is fought in the realm of politics, I would assume Madhuku is more comfortable with 'civil- people than the 'political- people that Mangwana is accustomed to dealing with. If one probes further, Madhuku is convinced that Mangwana-s 'people- are prone to manipulation, since they are selected on partisan preferences, hence, in his view, the 'illegitimacy- of the COPAC process. Mangwana on the other hand will argue that because all people have a degree of intelligence, it is inconceivable that one can manipulate [all of] them, thus the legitimacy of the COPAC process. As far as these two learned lawyers are concerned, the 'COPAC referendum- will be a battleground to determine which 'people- really matter in defining the destiny of Zimbabwe. For me, I would like to raise the argument on who the 'real- people are and why long before the bi-polar plebiscite.

    Let me start off with the marital institution I am familiar with - mine. I have four children - all boys - who I call 'mine-, for genetic and legal reasons. However, my 'possession- is limited, if not situational because when the two boys are in a kombi, the driver calls them 'my passengers-. At school, they are labelled 'my students- by their teacher while our pastor refers to them as 'my church members-. In other words, 'personhood- is situational. My point is that both Madhuku and Mangwana are in fact talking about the same people, the difference being these humans assume certain qualities in different scenarios.

    During the COPAC outreach, I met many 'people- who enjoy simultaneously multiple membership in NGO youth groups, the NCA, their professions, Movement for Democratic Change [MDC], ZANU-PF and several other social groupings. Some attended my meetings while other abstained because they said to me "we do not trust the other 'people- who are at your meetings". Nonetheless, at any one time, even a typical NCA member assumes 'dual personhood- that can be civil, professional or for that matter political.

    Madhuku-s rational argument is two-fold: first, 'political people- like Mangwana cannot preside over a constitutional reform process without resisting the temptation to 'unfairly influence- popular opinion. Second, he argues COPAC audience was 'people-, but attended either under duress, or some stayed away in fear of what Mangwana-s 'political people- would do to them before, during and after these meetings. Therefore the Madhuku conclusion is that even if it is 'people- that drive the COPAC process, they are not from the 'right civic category- in order to legitimise the process.

    Mangwana-s position is predictably different, if not outright divergent. He argues that every, or at least most 'people- came to the meetings voluntarily. His party, ZANU-PF, invested time and energy to 'explain- to these people what to expect and how to respond because in a democracy, one is allowed to teach 'one-s people- what is good for them. This means that he is saying to Madhuku: "It would have been better to [also] teach 'your people- what was good for them rather than saying: "don-t go there because you will meet the wrong Mangwana people".

    My conclusion is therefore tinged with Biblical annotation. There is none but God who can designate people as 'the right people- or 'the wrong people-. Those who stayed out of the COPAC process exercised their intelligent choice, while those that participated [either voluntarily or otherwise] had an opportunity to refuse. Whether you are NCA, ZANU-PF, MDC or 'civil-, you are the 'right person- because of your citizenship. If you feel you were 'excluded- from the COPAC process, you will have an opportunity to 'participate- in the referendum. That makes you important to me. Thus, in the final analysis, it will be interesting to see which 'people- will have the last laugh - Madhuku-s 'civil people- or Mangwana-s 'political people-. Either way, it is the people that will speak!

    XO2 this Wednesday may be your Extreme Opinion too!

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