Who should write Zimbabwe’s constitution?

By Tichaona Sibanda
29 April 2009

The making of a new constitution is slowly turning into one big fight. That our country needs to revitalise itself is in no doubt, and the fact that it needs a constitutional overhaul is also a well known fact.

But the road to constitutional reform is full of landmines, and more will be planted if threats by the National Constitutional Assembly and the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions are to be taken seriously.

Political analysts fear that if the country does not overhaul its constitution to suit its 21st century needs then the next elections in two years time, especially for the Presidency, will still divide the country.

NCA chairperson Dr Lovemore Madhuku argues that since Independence every modification to the constitution has been selfishly driven by ZANU PF with dire consequences for the general populace, as it has been aimed at consolidating power in one individual and his henchmen.

The 2000 attempt to come up with an overhauled constitution ended up in a no vote which some analysts say gave Robert Mugabe the licence to rig the 2002, 2005 and 2008 elections. This year has been promised to be the year of a new constitution. But our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa told us that another round of constitution making in the country does not promise much hope.

‘Madhuku and lately the ZCTU President Lovemore Matombo are saying the politicians can never be trusted. They have shown propensity to gag the media and gross mismanagement of funds, so they cannot be trusted to move the country forward,’ Muchemwa said.

However, supporters of the inclusive government, including those who are pro-MDC claim there are two groups that are against the current constitutional review in the country. They are the pro-democracy activists under the umbrella of the civil society, and a group that consists of human rights and constitutional lawyers.
The ZCTU on Tuesday called for an independent commission to lead the drafting of a new constitution for the country, rejecting plans by the government for Parliament to spearhead the writing of the governance charter.

Matombo told journalists in Harare that ZCTU ‘could not trust politicians with the writing of the new constitution,’ and vowed to mobilise workers to reject any proposed new constitution drafted by Parliament in a referendum scheduled for next year.

The Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo has appointed a 25-member committee of legislators drawn from ZANU PF and the two formations of the MDC that will oversee the drafting of the country’s new constitution.

While the inclusive government has said the process will lead to measures that would help build consensus and further dialogue in adopting the new constitution, the NCA, the ZCTU and student bodies argue that issues of national importance will be lost in the corridors of power if parliament controls the process.
But Moyo reiterated that parliament will drive the writing of the new constitution over the next 18 months as outlined under the power-sharing agreement signed by the three main political parties last year. The Speaker added that apart from lawmakers, contributors drawn from groups including business, students, rights organisations, churches, the media, women’s groups, labour and farming will assist the parliamentary-select committee. But the committee will still have the final say in the drafting of the new constitution.

The draft constitution would be put before the electorate in a
referendum expected in July next year and if approved by Zimbabweans will then be brought before Parliament for enactment. Once a new constitution is in place the power-sharing government is expected to then call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections.

 


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