Candid Comment: Constitutional Debate Leaves out Rural Folk

IN debating a new constitution it is important that we all understand what it means to its people.


A constitution is about how a people want to live, share resources, respect their human rights, the path they wish to take in developing their communities, who should rule them and how. It is like a covenant that governs every citizen, regardless of their tribe, race, religion or physical appearance.

Everyone should be able to see herself/himself in a constitution; they must own it, be part of it. To own something means that you have been part of the process that built or developed that item. It is something you can defend in case somebody wants to take it away from you.
There are many arguments as to why people voted No in the 2000 constitutional referendum. We need to ask to what extent were the people of Zimbabwe involved in the processes of the making of that constitution. What ownership did the people have in the process of constitution-making? How were people organised to give their views and who organised them?  The issue is not about whether the rejected constitution was better than the current one or not, but about the process used to develop it, hence its rejection.    
Today we ask the same question about how the people will be organised or are being organised and by whom, for the making of our new constitution. The how part of it is important. Parliamentarians and politicians need to understand that if we are to have a people’s constitution.
The constitution-making debate has been a political, academic and intellectual debate thus far about who is best suited to drive the process. The larger part of the people have not been involved because the process is designed by parliament and not by the people for parliament. We have heard contradictory views from parliamentarians regarding the new constitution and the process of constitution-making. There has been mention of the Kariba draft that was crafted by the two MDCs and Zanu PF being used as a reference document to the new constitution.
At a political rally MDC-T legislator Sam Sipepa Nkomo made mention that his party was pushing into the new constitution the devolution of power to the provinces and the division of the country into five regions. Nkomo’s statements were made following Zapu’s pronouncement of their party’s resolution to devolve power to the regions and the creation of five regions with elected premiers or governors. In the Kariba draft there is no mention of the devolution of power to the regions. There is mention of 10 provinces with governors appointed by the president.
We read in the newspapers President Mugabe indicating that the Kariba draft will form the basis of the making of the new constitution. The MDC-T co-chairman for the parliamentary select committee said the constitution-making process will be people-driven. He did not tell us how the people will be empowered to lead this process.
The debate on the new constitution has not cascaded to the lower levels of our communities. I frequently participate at various meetings including rural district council meetings. There has never been mention of a new constitution at these meetings. Last week I visited five rural district councils, and in all of them there were no debates around a new constitution.
Based on these facts and the competition for “voter space” among political parties, it is best that the constitution-making process is led by people who are not affiliated to any political organisation. Parliament can play a monitoring role, ensuring that the process is done according to laid down rules and agreed principles.
Parliament has not informed us as to how the various groups of women and young people living in the rural areas will be mobilised to participate and give their views. We have not heard mention of how persons with hearing impairments, visual impairments and other forms of physical disabilities will be catered for in the constitution-making process. Parliamentarians can rely on the experiences and expertise of various NGOs, civic organisations and faith-based bodies to lead the constitution-making process. The result will be such that all people, including those who sit in parliament, will be satisfied with the people’s contributions.  

Obadiah Moyo is a rural development activist. obbamoyo@gmail.com

BY OBADIAH MOYO

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