Candid Comment: Constitution-making Process Illegitimate

THE legitimacy and credibility of the controversial constitutional process further waned this week after clashes between parliament administrators and the select parliamentary committee spearheading the task.


The situation was worsened by chaos which characterised the committee’s restricted outreach programme.

Leaders of the committee are now stumbling and stammering in a bid to defend the increasingly unpopular process.

Problems bedevilling the process are varied and many. For a start, it is now clear the process itself is flawed.
There are also disputes about methodology, budgets, number of delegates to the stakeholders conference, the  role of parliament administration, mandate of the select committee and interface between parliament, political parties and the public.

   
The select parliamentary committee is digging in, while rejecting calls for an open, participatory and democratic process. In essence the committee believes that the 25 MPs in charge of the process are the only ones qualified to write a new constitution.

Other political parties except Zanu PF and the combined MDC, civil society, interest groups, professional organisations, students, churches, women and key stakeholders have not been fully consulted.
A stakeholders’ conference is being organised for July 9-12 in a bid to impose the committee’s dubious findings.

The committee wants to have us believe that it consulted people during its fleeting tour around the country. But we now know that the tour was a disaster in many respects because some of the meetings were either chaotic or just poorly attended. This is contained in the committee’s own report after the visits to Harare and Matabeleland North provinces. Imagine in Harare some of the meetings were attended by as few as 10 people, while others were cancelled due to non-attendance!   

In Matabeleland North there were concerns about why politicians were leading the process. People wanted other stakeholders to be involved. This is what we have been saying all along. In fact, according to the committee’s report itself, “there were also concerns whether the consultative process and referendum would be democratic (or not).”

This is the crux of the matter. The committee is trying to square a circle by hoping to come up with a democratic and legitimate constitutional draft out of an undemocratic and illegitimate process. The process is not legitimate in the view of the public because it is dominated by self-interested politicians who are pursuing power politics and self-preservation.

The process and referendum cannot be said to be democratic when they are firmly under the control of parties which signed an agreement to impose a flawed constitutional document, the Kariba draft. Whatever the MDC says, it is clear the Global Political Agreement makes the Kariba draft the reference point. The draft “acknowledged” by the agreement takes precedence over other drafts and submissions.

The MDC is now trying to wriggle out of its agreement with Zanu PF simply because it can now see the Kariba draft is shoddy and unpopular, a move which is both opportunistic and self-serving.

Zanu PF is clinging to the Kariba draft in terms of the agreement, but is also driven by self-interest. If the Kariba draft is adopted Zanu PF benefits because it leaves President Robert Mugabe’s powers intact. If Kariba is rejected, we go back to the current defective Lancaster House constitution which Mugabe  loves even more. It’s a win-win for Zanu PF, unwittingly promoted by the MDC. Once again, it’s clear we are likely to remain stuck with Lancaster House, courtesy of the MDC. In 2000 that was the case and now it’s likely to be the same.

This is why attempts by MDC co-chair of the committee Douglas Mwonzora to say that if this process fails people must blame the NCA and civil society are quite strange. If it fails, we will blame Zanu PF and the MDC for trying to impose a flawed document on the nation. It’s clear where the problem lies: the bid by politicians to clumsily impose a rigidly-controlled process and its outcome on the people via a dictatorial framework. The problem is not the people, but those trying to manipulate the people.

How can a 25-member committee of MPs from three parties bound by a self-serving, defective political agreement negotiated behind closed doors and in dark rooms write a constitution for a whole country? By their own admission, the political agreement is transitional and flawed. Why should that be a basis and only framework for writing a constitution? Why are these MPs and their parties so afraid of an open, participatory and democratic process? 

What have they got to hide? It’s an open secret that they want to impose Kariba, never mind the MDC’s exaggerated protestations, through a dubious process. If indeed they don’t want to smuggle that draft through the political door, why are they refusing to have an open process?

From what has been going on, it is becoming increasingly evident that the limited consultations done through a whirlwind tour were a smokescreen. The reality is that the process is a sham. Even if Zanu PF and the MDC eventually succeed in imposing a new constitution and their political will, the outcome will suffer from a paucity of legitimacy and credibility.

Mwonzora’s address to the Press Club in Harare this week was instructive. It was clear from his remarks that the parliamentary committee’s agenda is untenable. It now appears that there could well be a sinister political agenda behind this charade.

BY DUMISANI MULEYA

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