Saturday, February 27, 2010

(NEWZIMBABWE) 'No' to MDC, Zanu PF constitutional sham

'No' to MDC, Zanu PF constitutional sham
by Lovemore Madhuku
25/02/2010 00:00:00

IT IS now 12 years since the formation of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA). More significantly, it is ten years since the people of Zimbabwe rejected the Chidyausiku Commission’s Draft Constitution in February 2000.

This ‘no’ vote was significant particularly because it was the first time that we, as Zimbabwean citizens, refused to have the constitution of our country written by political leaders for the purposes of selfish political interests. It was a declaration by the people of Zimbabwe that: “We, the people, shall write our own constitution.”

There are others, who, since the historic ‘no’ vote in 2000, have argued that the people’s verdict on the Chidyausiku Constitutional Commission Draft was mistaken. As the NCA, we reject such an assertion with the contempt that it deserves. The No vote was an affirmation of the right of all Zimbabweans to be authors of our country’s social contract, with our democratic consent, understanding and belief.

In the 10 years that have passed since the historic 2000 ‘no’ vote, the NCA has been committed to the struggle to bring about a new democratic and people-driven constitution for Zimbabwe. We have never been self-righteous about this struggle and we have remained committed to it.

We have also always sought to join forces with those that share the principles that were established by the historic National Working Peoples Convention (NWPC) in February 1999, followed by the first Peoples Constitutional Convention in June 1999, re-emphasised in the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter of 2008 and re-acclaimed at the Second Peoples Constitutional Convention in July 2009.

It is from these four conventions that we draw our mandate to continue to seek a people-driven constitution for our country. It is also from the same that we have learned that constitutions are not supposed to be elitist documents merely because they have been authored in such fashion in countries either to the west or to the south of Zimbabwe.

Instead, our principles indicate that just as much as other countries were the first to do anything, Zimbabwe can be the first in Southern Africa, Africa or the World to author a people-driven constitution.

What do we mean by a “people-driven process”?

A people-driven process is democratic. It is transparent. It is independent of parochial and partisan interests of the political leaders of the day. It is led by an independent commission composed of all stakeholders and headed by an independent-minded Zimbabwean, preferably from the judiciary or clergy.

On the basis of our principles, we informed the political parties in the GPA that the Article 6 process was more political-party-driven than it is people-driven. This was and remains so because it is the political parties in Parliament who determine the nature and content of the constitutional reform process under Article 6.

The final outcome of the constitutional reform process under Article 6 is determined exclusively by the political parties in Parliament and not the people. Article 6 itself has been further weakened by arrogating all power to the three leaders of the three political parties in parliament, who are now christened “Principals” – an awkward description, given our rich political history.

The MDC was not yet in existence at the time of the historic National Working Peoples Convention (NWPC). Instead, it was formed as a result of that meeting with a clear mandate to pursue the objectives set out by the working people of Zimbabwe.

The ZCTU convened the NWPC and the NCA was one of the key players. One key objective was the struggle for a new, democratic and people-driven constitution. This is why the MDC played a key role in the 2000 ‘no’ vote and remained an ally in the years that followed.

This is also why, on March 11, 2007, in Highfield, Harare, the top leadership of the MDC and NCA shared the trenches when the dark forces of evil unleashed by President Mugabe and Zanu PF took the life of an NCA/MDC activist, Gift Tandare, and left Morgan Tsvangirai, myself and other leaders with permanent life-threatening injuries. We were in pursuit of a genuine people-driven constitution making process.

Given this history, we have, therefore, engaged the MDC President Morgan Tsvangirai and his top leadership on the current political party-driven constitution making process. Regrettably, we have agreed to disagree. The MDC is keen to pursue the current process as stipulated in their agreement with Zanu PF, while we are vehemently opposed to it.

We believe the MDC has abandoned its founding mandate on the constitution and is now bent on compromising the principles of a people driven constitution. Together with the ZCTU and ZINASU, we have established an alliance that is pursuing the founding ground of a genuine people-driven constitution. Our alliance will not allow the MDC leadership to preach the monumental falsehood that the current process is “people-driven”, merely because the MDC is part of it.

Our disagreements with the political parties that are signatory to the GPA are not without a proffering of alternatives. In March 2009, after the formation of the inclusive government, we had already indicated to the three political parties that the constitutional reform process should be overseen by an independent commission, headed preferably by a judge or such other neutral person, involving all of the political parties, civil society, farmers, business, women’s groups, students and citizens in the Diaspora.

We had also indicated that this inclusive government can only be viewed as a transitional government established to stabilise the national economy, ensure there is the facilitation of a people driven constitutional reform process, and thereafter the conducting of free, fair, democratic elections in terms of the new constitution.

As far as we can judge, the inclusive government, a year after it has been formed, is more pre-occupied with the retention of power. It has abandoned its “transitional nature” and wants to serve a full five-year term to 2013. It believes all the people of this country are so gullible that they cannot read this intention by this family of politicians who have now “found each other” and want to remain together for as long as possible. There is no longer the desire to serve the people.

Having said all of this, we must indicate that we are aware of the particular realities each and every citizen of this country faces. The high cost of living, the unaffordable health care, the low civil service salaries, the consistently poor state of our education system despite remaining unaffordable, the prohibitive costs of higher education and the lack of access to food, transport and power are issues that cannot be glossed over by making unrealistic promises as the inclusive government keeps doing.

Indeed, it is true that the work done by the inclusive government thus far has brought some stability to our economy. However, we reject the notion being popularised by the inclusive government that by bringing economic stability, it has also bought for itself immunity from criticism.

We are told that Zimbabweans must glorify the adage that “half a loaf is better than nothing,” even as they are getting “half a piece”. Zimbabweans are no longer expected to demand substantively decent livelihoods. In short, because we have an inclusive government that has brought some economic stability, we should cease to aspire to be a democracy!

We are aware that the so-called COPAC [Constitutional Parliamentary Committee] has still not undertaken any outreach. It has no intention to do so before acquiring huge resources (money and property) that will find their way to the pockets of individual politicians. This is why the leaders of COPAC claim that US$21 million of Western taxpayers’ money is not enough for their outreach!

We note, in particular, that both Zanu PF and MDC do not want the people to air their genuine views on a new constitution. Zanu PF is forcing the people to accept the Kariba Draft. The MDC is cheating its supporters into blindly supporting a document authored by its leadership and falsely entitled “MDC Position on the Constitution.” Its correct name is “Harvest House Draft.”

The new constitution coming out of COPAC will be a compromise between the Kariba and Harvest House Draft. We urge all Zimbabwean citizens to question the political parties as to their blatant partisanship in the writing of our national constitution. We will reject the compromise of Kariba/Harvest House Draft because it will be a defective document not representing the interest of our country.

Zimbabweans will vote NO to the draft constitution that comes out of such a flawed process. And in voting no, it is not as though we do not want a new democratic constitution, We want to write it ourselves: “We, the people shall write our own constitution.”

Comrades, colleagues and friends, the NCA is aware of the seemingly insurmountable challenges that face the struggle for a democratic and people-driven constitution. Some of these challenges include the violent political culture of Zanu PF, the resistance by the MDC leadership to embrace our struggle with honesty, and the decisions by the donor community not to support our particular struggle regardless of its correctness.

It is imperative that in the face of these challenges we do not allow ourselves to despair on the basis of those that seek to refuse Zimbabweans the right to make their own history, a history that like progressive histories in the world, does not have to suit the whims of experts, donors or those that claim to be more Zimbabwean or more popular than others.

It is a history that is premised on the consciousness that we are the people of Zimbabwe, we have fought the liberation war, fought the dictatorship of the de facto one party state under Zanu PF, and we voted ‘no’ in 2000 to a flawed constitutional reform process.

Our struggle for a new, democratic and people-driven constitution is at the heart of our pursuit of a Zimbabwe that is democratic, united and prosperous. To this struggle, we are fully committed.

We urge all Zimbabweans to remain focused on the appropriate destiny of our nation. The NCA will continue to provide the leadership and direction required until the attainment of a genuinely new, democratic and people-driven constitution.

Dr Lovemore Madhuku is the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly

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