Saturday, July 11, 2009

(HERALD) Zim constitution: The post-colonial response

Zim constitution: The post-colonial response
By Reason Wafawarova

The ongoing process of developing a draft constitution for Zimbabwe is supposed to bring to light our post-colonial response to the colonial debasement of our cultural heritage, our identity and our pride — all that was once demeaned as the way of a primitive people.

Generally, we have two discernible contradictory trends that were seen during the 2000 Constitutional Draft process and are apparent in the current efforts.

On the one hand, certain socio-political values with an appeal in Western societies are being vigorously promoted with the undoubted zeal of the tyro – eager to meticulously emulate the splendid model of Western lifestyles.

On the other hand, there are committed efforts to assert the authority our traditional selves, to emphasise the message that we, the people of Zimbabwe, are a sovereign people, an independent people and a self-determined nation.

Zimbabwe is operating on a Lancaster House Constitution whose initial context and spirit was to usher in a compromise legal set-up that did not detrimentally upset the colonial economic set-up in the country.

This document has had 19 amendments in the last 29 years and the politicians of our generation have agreed that it is time to come up with a new constitution.

For some in politics, this new constitution is all about "a free and fair election in the next two years"; for others in civil society it is about "grassroots participation"; and yet for others it is about "limiting Mugabe’s powers".

The Constitution of a country is the supreme law of the land, reflecting the social order and aspirations of a people.

Most importantly, the supreme law of the land must reflect the national identity and ethos of any given nation.

It appears to this writer that there are people in politics and in the civil society of Zimbabwe who have anointed themselves as custodians of the national psyche, mood and feeling.

These people hold illicit workshops in exclusively expensive places — funded dubiously by people who are not Zimbabwean even by the wildest imagination — and all in the name of what we are solemnly meant to believe is the grassroots population.

These people clearly and openly seek the production of a constitution that disappears right into the splendid model of Western constitutions by way of emulating.

The reasoning is very simple. We will have four-year presidential term limits because the United States does. We will have laws legitimising homosexuality because the West does. We will outlaw polygamy in line with the West and we will have property rights in line with Western capitalist views.

In reality, we have people, 29 years after Independence, hankering for a constitution that is closer to the former colonial master than the Lancaster House Constitution is.

It is the same old theme of the post-colonial syndrome — the increasing resemblance of our social behaviour to that of the dethroned colonial master.

One has to look at the taste of our African politicians, well represented even by the politicians of an economically devastated Zimbabwe.

They all want to artificially import the consumer societies of industrialised Western countries, even if that would only be limited to the world of the politician’s family and girlfriends.

They proudly exhibit to us a sophisticated preference for large and costly European automobiles, expensive tastes in Western fashions, and a phenomenal appetite for expensive holidays.

With honest and straight faces, they expect to be admired and congratulated by our long-suffering peasant villagers each time they drive their expensive cars to the rural areas, in their immaculate designer suits.

In 1974, Cde Samora Machel of Mozambique took up this theme and vowed that the state of Mozambique and its people would engage on "an unyielding struggle against the vestiges of colonialism, decadent values, erroneous ideas, the attitude of uncritically imitating foreigners".

The struggle for independence, he argued, had not been fought for the expulsion of the foreign dominators, "but also to reconquer our Mozambican personality, to bring about the resurgence of our culture and create a new mentality, a new society".

Who among those who have anointed themselves as our constitutional representatives is inspired by an unyielding struggle against the vestiges of the colonial effect, decadent values or erroneous ideas?

Who among them is fighting like a wounded buffalo the rampant culture of uncritically imitating foreigners?

Surely those boys from Zimbabwe National Students’ Union must be dead committed to reconquer our Zimbabwean personality, to bring about the resurgence of our long lost culture and to create among our people a new mentality, a new society.

After all, they tell us that they represent the "island of knowledge", never mind that many of them hardly possess any knowledge to inspire anybody.

The terrible reality is that these youngsters are not only dangerously armed with juvenile academic ignorance, but they embrace with the blindness of an earthworm the fabulous idea of limitless freedoms and human rights.

To this end, they will endeavour to achieve by marching and screaming what they cannot articulate by rationality and reason.

These are youngsters who will try to stone and burn into the constitution all that they cannot express by way of explanation.

With no history, no cultural identity, no self-image, no pride other than arrogance, the youngsters claim they are the future of our country.

The National Constitutional Assembly carries a high-sounding name and remarkably pretends to be leading a national process in the making of the Supreme Law of the Republic.

Save for budgetary expenditure and the electing of office bearers, everything else at the NCA is done in the name of the people Zimbabwe.

But what has been the record of the NCA in regard to its relationship with the people?

It would not be an exaggeration to assert that as a general rule what Dr Lovemore Madhuku and his crusaders have been doing over the past 10 years — by way of dealing with the people — amounts to little more than cosmetic tinkerings.

The organisation remains elitist-driven, Western-funded, European-modelled, with focus on upper level procedural rights and a suspicious reticence on subsistence rights like the right to land, food, shelter, education or health.

The NCA high-sounding bells preach bountiful Press freedom, freedom of expression, freedom of association and all sorts of truisms that are derived from the US-led Western alliance’s ambitious campaign to "democratise the uncivilised countries".

The Anglophone democracy that we are told we lack is the underlying foundation upon which Western funding is accessed by such organisations as the NCA and other Western-funded organisations that claim to be the custodians of democracy in Zimbabwe.

Surely Zimbabwe did not get independent so that its first adult generation of born-frees can re-introduce Anglophone control? We cannot relive by funding what we destroyed by fighting. That, children of Zimbabwe, is unacceptable.

We cannot abuse the name of our grassroots population by attaching to their name agendas that are planted and funded by strange foreigners. That plainly is disrespectful.

We cannot by the power of politics or the expediency that comes with political funding and foreign support manipulate the future and heritage of our country by contriving the consent of our people in seeking to produce a constitution fitting into the model and benchmarks provided by foreign peoples.

Already we hear that some in politics have decided to assign the task of constitution-making to a hotch-potch collection of expatriates — individuals who may have the best of intentions but are hopelessly ignorant of local conditions and who must of necessity spend about all the time they will be in the country undergoing familiarisation. We cannot afford to have a repeat of the aftermath of independence.

Then, we had whole operations in defence, education, health, and the civil service — operations that functioned like a shuttle service — as what we called "experts" came and went, some for just a few weeks.

It would be absolutely pathetic for Zimbabwe to adopt another shuttle service approach to the process of constitution-making, a good 29 years after Independence.

What the Western elites would want their NGO community resident in Zimbabwe to achieve is very simple.

They want to create a "pro-democracy local group" that comprises of persons who deny their true self, to constantly strive to emulate the Western way of life, and to be useful intermediary between the neo-colonialists and the less informed masses of our own country.

Such persons do not mind being little black Westerners, the docile instrument of imperialism, whose ambition is to live like a Westerner, in whose image they are created.

In the attainment of these objectives we have seen the NGO community depicting itself as a primary instrument and this is why Zimbabweans must learn to tell NGOs not to overstep their declared intentions.

This writer is not under any illusions and acknowledges that there may be aspects of Western laws or any other laws from elsewhere that we as Zimbabweans may borrow for our own good.

It is when such values are thrust upon us by the incentive of donor funding and by the power of political manipulation that we need to confront the aggressors with no sense of remorse.

Without the campaigning of Western-funded mouthpieces and the articulation of issues through foreign-sponsored workshops and talk-shops, Zimbabwe has the capacity to independently assess any foreign laws and values without undue meddling and interference.

We have a people learned enough to reliably research on these issues without the aid of self-invited foreigners and this is the approach we need to adopt.

Zimbabwe can, without interference, produce a constitution that is a vehicle for wiping out the neo-colonial capitalist mentality and the negative aspects of the traditional mentality.

We can produce a constitution that fights and defeats oppression, superstition, individualism, selfishness, elitism, corruption, poverty, sickness, segregation, hunger and many other ills — all by ourselves.

Most of all, our constitution must truly propagate our national culture, our political, technical and scientific knowledge as a people. The constitution must define us as a people. We cannot afford to have a constitution that makes us disappear into that colonial splendid Western model. There is no pride in such foolishness.

If the real majority people of rural Zimbabwe were to independently and freely express their own opinion on what they want covered in the constitution, plainly almost none of them would be advocating for freedom to march and protest in streets or freedom to read hostile newspapers or any such secondary rights.

They want good shelter, food, land, pastures, educational facilities, health facilities and a sound infrastructure to service economic communication within their communities.

They want an environment that can allow them to produce well agriculturally and to adequately fend for themselves.

Only after these primary rights have been met can they start thinking of which newspaper to read, or freedom to look at the Internet or any such rights that are fronted each time we read about countries like North Korea, Cuba, and Iran.

In this constitution-making process, it is this writer’s wish that Zimbabweans are not going to play party politics on a matter of national interest and that a truly Zimbabwean constitution reflecting our hope and aspiration as a people will be produced.

Our constitution cannot be reduced to an election document or a Presidential Powers document. That is ludicrous.

Zimbabwe we are one and together we will overcome. It is homeland or death!

l Reason Wafawarova is a political writer and can be contacted on wafawarova *** or reason *** or visit

Labels: , ,


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home