ZIMBABWE is at a crossroads. Nowhere is this crisis of nationhood more evident than in the current debate on how to come up with a new constitution.
There is already conflict between politicians and civic society groups over the process. Parliament has set up a select committee to spearhead the process.
Civic society, led by the National Constitutional Assembly, is not happy about the role allocated to it and says the process is not representative of the people.
Speaker of Parliament Lovemore Moyo said the process was sufficiently representative as parliamentarians represent the people.
This is the view of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga of the MDC-T. Both major political parties, Zanu PF and the MDC-T, have an equal number on the select committee.
Civic society wants an independent chairperson of the select committee, the appointment of civil society and/or independent individuals to be chairpersons of sub-committees, and an independent person to chair the all-stakeholdersâ€™ conference.
The NCA in particular, as represented by its chairman Lovemore Madhuku, says: â€œWe have demanded that the process should be people-driven.â€
His organisation has already taken a position, an unhealthy one in our opinion at this early stage of the process:Â â€œWe are campaigning for a no vote,â€ Madhuku is quoted as telling the media.
â€œWe will repeat what happened in 1999. We are saying no to a defective constitution that is born out of a defective process altogether.â€
We have no problem with the NCA and civic society organisations exercising their watchdog role in the constitution-making process.
Nor do we think that they are wrong in demanding a direct role for themselves in the process. That is what democracy all is about.
But in challenging the â€œrepresentativenessâ€ of the select committee, we feel the NCA and its civic society partners have overstepped their mandate. At the very least they are questioning the legitimacy of parliament.
Zimbabwe is a parliamentary democracy, whatever its faults. That means members of parliament represent the people, unless it can be demonstrated that those members on the select committee were improperly selected. Thus we donâ€™t see what the objection is there.
The overrated concept of â€œpeople-drivenâ€ is beginning to ring hollow.
It seeks to take us back to the classic, primitive definition of democracy in which all men must come together under a tree and vote for a new constitution.
This is impossible if that is what Madhuku & Co are calling for. It is a gigantic deception. If the people are not represented by their elected members of parliament, then how does Madhuku propose to represent them?
We would hate to assume that the NCA has grown so arrogant to believe that it alone represents the people.
Beyond that, it is another deception for the NCA and its partners to talk about the constitution as if Zimbabweans were trying to reinvent the wheel in which all the technical and engineering skills are vested in the NCA.
There is nothing â€œnewâ€ about any constitution in the 21st Century.Â
At the end of the day, it is a patchwork of what already exists except that in this case, the NCA objects to anything done by Patrick Chinamasa and Tendai Biti.
In this connection, what worries us more is the content of the NCAâ€™s â€œnoâ€ campaign. Since they have already adopted a position before there is a draft, what are they going to tell â€œthe peopleâ€?
The NCA is telling us that it is going to repeat the lie of 1999 about the current constitution if it doesnâ€™t get a seat on the high table as the arbiter of choice.
What is an â€œindependentâ€ chairperson to whom there will be no objection in Zimbabwe? Certainly not the NCA which vacillates between neutrality and an opposition party without a constituency.
If the NCA had been able to define and maintain its neutral role, its protestations about a new constitution would easily command authority.
It lost that moral high ground a long time back and is now no more than a sore loser in the political game.
We have been through this debate before.
Madhuku and partners will not have forgotten â€œthe Zimbabwe we wantâ€ document. He is reviving exactly the same tired arguments where the objection is to the â€œwhoâ€ and not â€œwhatâ€. Who drafted the constitution and not what its contents are.
Zimbabwe is in this mess in part because those who should provide leadership are failing. The â€œnewâ€ constitution should encapsulate the Zimbabwe we want, not what Madhuku and Co want.
With the formation of the GNU there is a vacancy for an opposition political party. Perhaps the NCA can seize the moment and tell us what they envisage.
They can then gauge their prospects. Itâ€™s 10 years since the MDC did it.
Now it could be their turn.