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New constitution alone not a solution

I HAVE been closely following the debate on the MDC’s stance regarding the constitutional 18th Amendment Bill. The civic groups were not at all pleased and the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) was especially vocal and dismissed the move as a clear

case of betrayal. I think the condemnation is based more on emotions than logic.

The MDC doesn’t support the present Constitution, that is one thing for certain. The progressive groups belong to different areas of specialisation, and for them to be towed into the NCA agenda will be asking too much.

What the NCA is demanding is just the same as to say the ZCTU should stop addressing the workers welfare and concentrate on the constitutional war. In the same vein, ZimRights cannot ignore the sentiments of the repressed and only focus on the constitutional question. The same implies to all other civic groups. The MDC is no exception, it is a political party whose membership is restive for political emancipation.

Civic groups must be reminded that a golden solution to the present quagmire is difficult to establish, especially between the constitutional and political aspects. They seem to be blinkered into thinking that a new constitution is the panacea to our political mess. Please be reminded that a new constitution can be manipulated just as the Sadc principles guiding elections. It is necessary to fight the constitutional war from several angles.

A political settlement can provide a solution to everything else including the constitution. The debate on which one of these (political or constitutional approach) is difficult to conclude since it hinges more on attitude than belief. My recommendation is however to embrace both.

All authoritarian governments across the world have their powers firmly established on flawed constitutions. Zimbabwe is no exception. Pushing the government into instantly making a complete overhaul to that which preserves its powers is a mammoth task. A new constitution will not come on a silver platter.

Even veteran nationalists like Joshua Nkomo, James Chikerema, Michael Mawema, Edison Sithole, Joseph Msika and Stanlake Samkange had to face a torrid time, fighting for a new constitution (among other demands). It took them more than a decade to realise that their demands constituted a trillion pound request to the Rhodesians. Thus they advocated for the extreme political approach — the military way (which I do not wish Zimbabweans to consider now). It must be stressed here that even after 14 years of bitter war, they failed to obtain a favourable home-grown constitution. The Lancaster House constitution was crafted in the land of our former coloniser.

This expresses the sensitivity of the constitutional debate, which some people think can be achieved after merely trotting along First Street — such measures are necessary but they need to be complemented through political manoeuvres, as the MDC is doing.

It is my view that Zanu PF can only accept a new constitution after the present one has been grossly diluted, thereby rendering it “dictationally” feeble. The 18th Amendment might not have much to this effect but it can be considered as a step toward achieving the same. It has opened the gates towards the redressing of Posa, Aippa, BSA, Electoral Act etc. Once these have been dealt with, even Zanu PF would be seen on the front, calling for a new constitution for it would be having noting to lose or preserve. Therefore, the ongoing Sadc initiated talks, if pursued sincerely, should be viewed as a way of dehorning the bull (that is the constitution) after which its owner (Zanu PF) would have no reason to keep it in that harmless state.

Whilst Zanu could have gained more from the 18th Amendment, it will be difficult for them when it comes to other constitutional provisions to be discussed. MDC is likely to emerge the major beneficiary. However, people should be wary of being hoodwinked by Zanu PF propaganda. Zanu will hypocritically appear to be the major bargainer.

Total victory cannot be realised overnight, it comes in different forms and quantities. The extremist approach being propagated by NCA is tantamount to the consolidation of the status quo, polarity and likely to render the MDC an undiplomatic egocentric, un-accommodative party, pregnant with dictatorial traits.

I therefore call upon all progressive institutions to keep on piling pressure for a new constitution. They must consider MDC as an equal partner whose decisions should be accepted with an open mind. MDC must not be mistaken for a surrogate entity by any partner.

We are in a struggle. The camps might be different, the weapons, strategies, language and regalia may all differ, but the ultimate goal remains the same: freedom from the shackles of Zanu PFs misrule.

Tendai Navaya,


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