Back to Index
This article participates on the following special index pages:
New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
new, democratic, people-centred and people-driven constitution remains
key to the Zimbabwe problem
February 12, 2012
The issue of
a new constitution in Zimbabwe has been newsworthy as long as we
can remember. Calls for a new constitution from the suffering people
of Zimbabwe persist. They are fed up with the now antediluvian Lancaster
which many believe was simply a power-transfer document. This article
then is a contribution on the ongoing demands for a new constitution
in Zimbabwe. It is the author-s conviction that a new constitution
will deliver to the peace-loving people of Zimbabwe a vibrant leadership
wholly committed to reducing suffering, saving lives, improving
living conditions and maintaining the inherent and inviolable dignity
of the human person. It is a truism that the idea of respect for
human dignity and of unselfish help for those who suffer is an inseparable
part of man-s heritage. Dictatorship continues to challenge
the humanitarianism and hospitality traditionally associated with
African civilisation. We can-t afford to remain silent any
longer. Hear me for my cause dear reader.
I never partook
in the struggle for independence in Zimbabwe not because I didn-t
want to, but largely because I was born three (3) years after Zimbabwe
had already become independent. My non-participation in the liberation
war is not very important. What is of supreme importance, in my
opinion, is the fact that I know fully well what people fought for
during the period in question.
I am reliably
informed and this may apply to all of us, that the struggle for
independence from colonial rule in Zimbabwe and perhaps Africa at
large was invariably cast as a struggle to realise freedom, equality,
individual liberties and democracy. From this it can be established
beyond any reasonable doubt that independence therefore came as
a great symbol of hope to the many Zimbabweans who had been seared
in the flames of withering injustice during colonial rule. In other
words, independence brought with it an aura of optimism and/or a
crisis of high hopes and expectations. In short, people were overly
questions we should grapple with are: Where are we now (almost)
32 years after independence? Are we better-off or worse-off? To
what extent can we say the promises of the liberation struggle have
been fulfilled? Answering these questions is not simple, clear-cut
and unproblematic. Answering is instead intricately complex thereby
making it a colossal and gargantuan task. Almost 32 years after
independence, Zimbabwe continues to swelter with the heat of oppression,
to scorch with the heat of injustice. It isn-t too late though.
We still have an opportunity to transform Zimbabwe into an oasis
of freedom and justice. This contribution is dedicated to the proposition
that Zimbabwe urgently requires a new, democratic, people-centred
and people-driven constitution. Obviously, in lieu of the much-talked
about elections, whenever they are held.
The phrase "a
new, democratic, people-centred and people-driven constitution . . . "
is a clear indication in itself that the existing constitution is
old, undemocratic, not people-centred and not people-driven. The
current constitution therefore lacks authenticity and a connection
with real life and real people.
From a more
analytical perspective, it can be said that it is dissatisfaction
with the provisions of the Lancaster House Constitution, particularly
Constitutional Amendment Number 7, of 1987, that has led to the
struggle for a new democratic constitution in Zimbabwe. But some
may ask, why Constitutional Amendment Number 7? The answer is simple.
One thing for sure is that the amendment is antithetical to and
incompatible with democratic development in the country.
Amendment Number 7 created the position of Executive President and
it is quite disquieting to learn that the most serious problem in
our constitution is an all-powerful president with all sorts of
powers. The president has powers to appoint and dismiss public figures,
exercise the prerogative of mercy, dissolve parliament, declare
a state of emergency et cetera.
From the foregoing,
it can be noted that our President wields so much power in the land.
Why? Our bad constitution gives it to him. So what effect does this
have on our lives? The effect is that we have been tyrannised by
a government allegedly constituted for our own protection and good.
The commandist and murderous political culture acquired by ZANU
PF during the liberation struggle has a harmful effect on our politics.
We need to take deliberate steps to exorcise this shameful culture
from our body politic. Failure to do so will leave us miserable
for a long time. We have begun thinking and feeling that we were
freer during the settler regime. How disappointing?
to what has been said above, the current constitution has a very
restrictive and emaciated bill of rights. We all know don-t
we, that a Trade Union without the right to strike is like a lion
without claws and teeth. Noteworthy is the fact that some fundamental
rights and freedoms are conspicuous by their absence in the current
constitution. For instance: freedom of the press; the right to education;
the right to health; to mention just but a few. The government has
a panoply of coercive tools such as the military, police, Central
Intelligence Organisation (CIO), war veterans and youth militia.
Draconian pieces of legislation such as the Public
Order and Security Act (POSA) and Access
to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA), have also
dealt a smooth trajectory from authoritarianism to democracy a lethal
blow since these curtail among others the rights to freedom of association,
assembly, movement, media freedom and freedom of expression.
What then are
we supposed to do? Dear Zimbabweans, allow me to draw your attention
to the fact that we have an inalienable right to make a constitution
for ourselves. Above all else, be reminded that we also have an
indispensable right to destroy a government, any government that
continues the practice of the colonial regime. We no longer have
a leader. I mean a caring and solicitous leader. The heartless dictator
does not tolerate unity-in-diversity and he appears to be long on
myopia and short on memory. Do we not know that there are other
ways of dealing with people who oppose you besides refusing to listen
to them and crushing them?
A new constitution is the key. According to the late Professor Masipula
Sithole, "the constitution is the basic or fundamental framework
upon which all else, including the economy ensues." Without
a sound constitutional framework, all else comes to zilch. A sound
constitution is necessary in that it regulates the conduct of politics,
which in turn regulates or influences the economy. Furthermore,
our diabetic economy largely stems from bad governance. In addition,
good governance, democracy and development all emanate from a new,
democratic, people-centred and people-driven constitution. So we
are not supposed to drag our feet on this matter because doing so
will be illogical at best and grossly irresponsible at worst. How
long shall we be silent? Have we forgotten that: "Our lives
begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter"
(Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr).
of and participation in the whole constitutional reform is sine
qua non. This is so ostensibly because there is nothing that a people
united cannot do, united, our strength becomes faith that moves
mountains. I am convinced that "when spider webs unite, they
can tie up a lion" (Ethiopian proverb). Furthermore, the realisation
of a new democratic dispensation is not very easy without first
banishing illiteracy and tackling people-s fears. Illiteracy
has dealt democratic development in Zimbabwe a lethal blow. Some
of the consequences of illiteracy according to J. Dijkstra are:
on a global scale (which results from poverty and underdevelopment)
forms an obstacle to progress and development;
excludes large groups of people from full participation in society
and thereby confirms the continuation of the status quo;
keeps people in a situation where they are dependent, lacking
autonomy, without rights and living in conditions of insecurity;
prevents people from being aware of their situation, their rights
and their dependence.
Coming up with
a new, democratic, people-centred constitution requires civil disobedience.
The only universal remedy that is both morally and practically sound
is civil disobedience. As Mahatma Gandhi put it, "Civil disobedience
is the assertion of a right which law should give but which it denies."
Unjust laws are bound to be broken. The African
(Banjul) Charter on Human and People-s Rights Article
20 (2) explicitly states that: Colonised or oppressed peoples shall
have the right to free themselves from the bonds of domination by
resorting to any means recognised by the international community.
Which path do we have to follow as Zimbabweans? The ball is in our
hands. We are the authors of our own destiny. The struggle continues
Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.