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The Constitution no one Wants

THE Constitution-making process set in motion by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) is going to be messy; very messy — and futile too.


The reason for this is very simple: in spite of all the utterances to the contrary, none of the three political parties in the government nor their leaders desires the new Constitution; not Robert Mugabe, not Morgan Tsvangirai, not Arthur Mutambara, and come to think of it, not Lovemore Madhuku, the National Constitutional Assembly chairman.

 

So, the likely scenario is this: Zimbabwe is stuck with the inclusive government until at least 2013. But the tragedy is that the inclusive government is not, strictly speaking, a legitimate government if legitimacy is determined by the will of the people to chose their leaders.

Zimbabweans need not be reminded that of the three so-called principals one won an inconclusive election in March 2008, the other “won” a brutal one in June of the same year while the third did not win anything.

The people of Zimbabwe deserve the right to be led by legitimate leaders hence they yearn for a new national charter which will allow them to elect their rulers in a free and fair poll recognised by them and the international community.

This should be done within the stipulated 24 months; anything outside that framework would be tantamount to political fraud.

As it stands, the search for a new charter may turn out to be the mythical “Quest for the Golden Fleece”; in the labyrinthine liberation-war-versus-basic-tenets-of-democracy rhetorical matrix, writing it will take guile, violence and intrigue.

The trouble is, if the constitution is written according to the letter and spirit of the GPA and enables a truly free and fair election, that may mean the end of many political careers: no one among the so-called principals to the GPA can claim safety in the elections which should come after the constitution has been written. As one Soviet-era strongman once said: “The danger with free and fair elections is that no one knows who wins them.”

President Mugabe is overly aware of this after the March 2008 poll and before that the February 2000 constitutional referendum.

Revelations by Mutambara on July 18 that Mugabe had not told the whole truth when saying he had not been invited to the opening ceremony of the all-stakeholders meeting the previous Monday is instructive about his attitude towards the whole process.

His insistence on the Kariba draft as the basis of the new constitution also betrays the fear he has got for a truly people-driven charter which does not treat him as a sacred cow.

Tsvangirai might still be basking in the glory of beating Mugabe to the wire in March 2008 but the scenario could be vastly different in another two years. Many political commentators are already beginning to see corruption creeping in among his foot soldiers; and also a nascent arrogance towards the electorate which is not only disturbing but could again remind us of that major tragedy of African politics: the propensity for selfishness.

In the new crop of parliamentarians formerly from the opposition one can already begin to see what we tongue-in-cheek used to call “the collective instinct”, a dark euphemism for the acquisitiveness of Zanu PF politicians. See how they are grabbing US$30 000 cars when schools have no pencils!

A senior MDC-T cabinet minister once said, to avoid a repeat of the violence of June last year, the process of national healing must be allowed to run uninterrupted for five years before an election can be called.

There may be a point in this, but such thinking can also be disingenuous, disguising a wish to remain on the gravy train for as long as circumstances allow.

As for the smaller MDC led by Mutambara, the writing is on the wall. They will need a miraculous metamorphosis in the next 20 months to transform themselves into something remotely resembling a national political party.

An election in 24 months may completely sweep them away. See the infighting that has already rocked the party. Hence you find Mutambara aver for the idea of the inclusive government going for five years without the inconvenience of an election.

Madhuku has carved a niche for himself in the Zimbabwean political landscapes; like him or not, he will always be lurking in the darkness. In the present debate on who should lead the constitution-making process his is logic right — very right — in saying politicians should not lead the process but his stance not to support is too cut in stone to be out of pure benevolence.

If he and his allies in civil society succeed in the process of writing “a people-driven Constitution” how will they force their charter into the mainstream politics for endorsement unless they stand as a political formation in an election?

The NCA is almost like a political party of the British Lib Dems tradition which although never coming to the fore is always there; it would not be surprising if it launches itself in the near future as a full-fledged party on the strength of this. An election in two years’ time might close Madhuku’s space completely, hence he has distanced himself from the parliament-led process.

So what is the likely scenario in the constitution-making process?

Messrs Mangwana, Mwonzora and Coltart will cobble up a sort of compromise draft document which will be rejected at the poll.

The MDC-T leadership may half-heartedly support it on the assumption that, given half a chance, they could win the subsequent election, but those of its members in unsafe constituencies will bite the process in the back by campaigning for a “No” vote at the referendum, hoping to extend their stay in power a little longer.

Zanu PF will pay lip-service to the writing process while using their grassroots structures to mobilise against it, because Zanu PF faces the greatest real chance of its total demise as a political formation in an internationally monitored free and fair poll, hence their harping for the Kariba draft.

In their campaign against the draft constitution they will get willing allies in Madhuku and his civil society cohort which is already playing into the hands of Zanu PF. Madhuku, if he is to be taken seriously, should work within the parliament-led process.

Meanwhile time will be ticking away and the inclusive government will be with us until 2013 with all the horrendous implications.

According to Greek mythographers the golden fleece of the winged ram which Jason sought represented the ideas of legitimacy, hence the journey of Jason to find it in order to restore legitimate rule to his father’s kingdom.

But there are too many people in the present Zimbabwean political fray who can never again earn legitimacy in a democratic manner.

They would therefore hide behind the GPA Trojan Horse and trudge along clogged by their violent history, much to the detriment of the majority. We need someone with Jason’s vision to regain the Golden Fleece.

  • Nevanji Madanhire was editor of the Business Tribune banned in 2004.

BY NEVANJI MADANHIRE

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