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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
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
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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