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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Constitution? What constitution
    Mgcini Nyoni
    August 08, 2013

    The great author and filmmaker, Tsitsi Dangarembga a few weeks before the Zimbabwe harmonized elections asked this: “What is our collective subconscious in Zimbabwe, one of strife, trouble, war, violence, lack, disease, coercion, brutality?” What is our collective subconscious in Zimbabwe? It’s an important question; especially as the nation of Zimbabwe has just come out of general elections many believe were ‘rigged’ by Zanu-PF and Robert Mugabe. I believe the electoral process was manipulated by Zanu-PF, but was the manipulation enough to account for the more than million votes Morgan Tsvangirai was trounced by? That’s a debate for another day. The more immediate question is whether the two-thirds Zanu-PF parliamentary majority is an impediment to democracy or we were screwed either way.

    On 22 May 2013, the president of the republic of Zimbabwe, Robert Gabriel Mugabe signed the very expensive draft constitution into law. Zimbabwe now officially has a new constitution and a lot of people were very excited about the whole thing. But I for one refused to join the farce: I relegated the whole thing to that rubbish pile that I dump the many hoodwinking efforts by African politicians. Zanu-PF got a two-thirds majority in parliament in the just ended elections and they can throw the new constitution into the bin. That might be a problem, but not a real one; the signing of the new constitution was already a farce long before Zanu-PF won a two-thirds parliamentary majority. There are two reasons why I believe the signing into law of the new constitution was a non-event that was never ever going to have any meaningful impact on our lives even if Robert Mugabe had lost the elections:

    The first reason is that more than fifty million dollars was wasted on an ‘outreach’ program that was meant to gather people’s views towards the new constitution. After the obviously self-enriching process by our politicians, the views of the people were thrown into the dustbin and what was eventually drafted was what they called a ‘negotiated’ documented. We did not protest much because we were now tired of the back and forth and we wanted the charade to come to an end. We were then given three weeks to go through the draft constitution and decide on whether we wanted it or not. Copies of the draft constitution were not provided. I did not vote in the ‘referendum’ that was held on the 16th of March 2013 because I obviously did not know the contents of the draft constitution as I could not decipher the contents of a legal document in one week – I received a soft copy from a friend one week before the referendum. And besides, all the major political parties were campaigning for a ‘YES’ vote, so the result was more or less predetermined: The constitution obviously belongs to the elite grouping of politicians who seem to be in cahoots to loot state resources.

    The other reason why I don’t believe the new constitution is worth talking about is that African politics is not determined by constitutions but whoever is in power. Noel Kututwa, Amnesty International's Africa deputy director was quoted by The Zimbabwean Newspaper the day the draft constitution was signed into law:

    “The new constitution is a positive development with the potential to increase ordinary people’s enjoyment of their basic rights,”

    “Not only is the world watching whether the country has truly turned the corner on this historic day, but millions of people in Zimbabwe hope that this new constitution will usher in a new political order where human rights are respected and protected.” Did he really believe the new constitution would somehow miraculously make our politicians become caring about the good of Zimbabwe?


    The 1979 Lancaster House constitution which was replaced by the new constitution has a decent bill of rights, but that didn’t stop the current government from grossly abusing the rights of its citizens. As long as voting in Africa generally and Zimbabwe more specifically is not about who is sufficiently qualified to lead the country and about voting for our ‘heroes’ we might as well work without a constitution as Robert Mugabe or Morgan Tsvangirai (if he had won) will not hesitate to amend sections of the constitution that do not help them fulfill their self-interested agendas.

    A few days before Robert Mugabe signed the new constitution into law, Morgan Tsvangirai, the leader of MDC-T threatened to shut down newspapers that write negatively about him. Officially launching his party’s national policy conference in Harare on Friday the 17th of May 2013, Morgan Tsvangirai said he was tired of receiving negative coverage from the public media. “You cannot have a newspaper with six articles saying Tsvangirai this and Tsvangirai that; everyday! Regai vakadaro. But musi umwe gava richadambura musungo (Let them be. But one day, things will go bad for them). That kind of a media has no future in a democratic Zimbabwe. I want to tell you this. Muchadya izvozvo. (You will be victims of your doings)”, he said.

    He makes it clear that he does not respect a right as basic as freedom of expression. A constitution, no matter how brilliant in the hands of either Robert Mugabe or Morgan Tsvangirai is not of much use. That’s why I did not get excited about the new constitution. As long as us, as Zimbabweans don’t seriously rethink how we vote our leaders into power, we can forget about the effectiveness of a good constitution.

    In conclusion, I will borrow again from the words of Tsitsi Dangarmbga: “We have to sew love, harmony, respect, collaboration, trust, honesty, diligence, fairness and prosperity for all in our nation. We have to vote into power women and men of the spirit who can sow these things in our country. Then we shall see the Zimbabwe we want”.

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