Kariba Draft processes will never give birth to sustainable democratic outcomes

diamonds-1The formation of this Government of National Unity (GNU) reminds us of the Lancaster Agreement. As like the GNU, the Lancaster House Agreement was not voted for or mandated by the Zimbabwean people. As such it never helped Zimbabweans to address their problems adequately. And again here we go with a GNU that came out of a heavily compromised agreement, of which some see as buying time.

In the meantime Zimbabweans wait with bated breath to see whether it\’s for real that work’s to replace the 1979 Lancaster House Constitution, which has been amended 19 times, the last amendment being the one that ushered in the inclusive government. Zimbabweans deserve much better than this. We are a people who have come very far. We cannot continue to afford the same history, seeing ourselves taking one step forward and three steps backward. The new proposed legislation allows the Zimbabwean President to pass new laws without Parliamentary approval in times of crisis is open to abuse.

This will empower the president to make regulations dealing with situations that have arisen or are likely to arise and that require to be dealt with as a matter of urgency and to provide for matters connected there with or incidental there to. That a number of provisions of this act are detrimental to democratic practice in Zimbabwe is beyond dispute. Zimbabwe has had an experience of a state of emergency and martial law before in the early and mid 1980s number of atrocities were committed under the banner of preserving state security, that was characterised by mass executions of the Ndebele people by the North-Korean trained Fifth Brigade.

Civil liberties were suspended and political freedoms entertained to the extent to which they were either state sanctioned or aided the state. The content and structure of Kariba Draft may also open the door for political manipulation of government structures. For example the removal of a member of Parliament automatic after he or she is absent from 21 consecutive sittings. This change appears inexplicable, but given Zimbabwe’s history of violence and intimidation, it is possible to imagine that the change was crafted to allow the expulsion of opposition politicians after they have been arrested or forced into hiding.

Many seemingly minor changes reflected in the Kariba Draft raise similar questions about the intent of the drafters. Kariba makes it very difficult for Parliament to pass a vote of no confidence. In fact, the Draft removes the subsection in the Constitutional Commission Proposal that specifies that if a President fails to comply with the requirements of a vote of no confidence he must resign, allowing a President to simply ignore such an action. It permits the President to dissolve Parliament at any time, allowing him to override proposed legislation that he opposes and perhaps escape impeachment. He may also unilaterally extend a term of Parliament during times of war. Under the current Constitution, the President enjoys expansive , unchecked powers that is being used for political advantage. These powers are not diminished under the Kariba Draft. Without the constitution hurdle being passed there will be no elections we are told. So in theory we must all support the parliamentary process chicanery and the Kariba Draft it seeks to legitimise.

This builds on the same defeatist theory that saw the people\’s party being pushed into an unfair and anti-democratic deal with Zanu PF. Then people\’s hunger and suffering was used to capitulate and compromise democratic principles instead of being seen as the objective factors upon which the struggle for democracy would be fought and achieved. Our own constitution has been reduced to an election document. One of the problems is that wider society is generally unaware of the significance of the constitution and constitutionalism. Some people in Zimbabwe hardly know about constitution making thy only know about harassment.

The knowledge of constitution is largely restricted to the legal profession .The constitution itself was a compromise reached at the Lancaster House to end the war of liberation. The constitution of Zimbabwe was not created by the local people but was a document drawn up with the strong influence of the former colonial power. Cases of Zanu Pf activists engaging in countrywide violence and intimidation ahead of the constitution making outreach programme to swing opinion in favour of Kariba Draft which was secretly authored in 2007 also villagers are told Prime Minister is \”foreign\” and not African as there was none on the continent , because President can appoint as many Ministers as he chooses and create a Cabinet of any size. Cabinet should be chosen by the premier to ensure checks and balances.

The issue of gay rights has taken centre stage in the constitution outreach programme with Zanu PF reportedly telling villagers that any constitutional provisions outside what is in the controversial Kariba Draft will promote same sex marriages and homosexuality .Using homosexuality, something which they know people particularly those in rural areas are strongly opposed to, to make sure that they parrot what is in the Kariba Draft. The constitutional reform process determined exclusively by the political parties in Parliament and not the people currently searching for freedom not necessarily result in oppression removal.

This process should not be delegated to Parliament and the Senate but rather these institutions should oversee that all citizens are given equal opportunity to participate. I don’t claim that any opposition leaders may have or will have sinister motives for power or other ill intentions but Mugabe himself was a leading freedom fighter in the 1970’s and so perhaps this is something to think about. I feel that the voice of the people has been silenced in the current proceedings and that stronger input is needed by the people of Zimbabwe for any new constitution to have legitimacy and truly reflect the will of the people By Simbarashe Dziruni

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