The constitution-making process has become the new terrain for political stake building both within and outside the inclusive government.
There is no doubt that part of this inclusive government is a weak but authoritarian Zanu PF regime that phenomenally seeks to control the transitional process in such a way as to reinvent itself and emerge stronger at the expense of the democratisation project.
Derailing the progress of the inclusive government by reducing it to an expedient framework for “pacts, bargains and haggling” that waters down tangible reforms is one of Zanu PF’s key strategies.
The mediator, South African president Jacob Zuma, seems to be falling into the trap by suggesting that “some of the issues could be put aside for now so that the country can ready itself for elections”.
This view sounds incremental. In mediation one may have to avoid seeking clarity on the way forward as it may bring out serious ideological differences that tear apart parties that are diametrically incompatible.
The problem with this approach is that it postpones Zimbabwe’s immediate need to confront and reform institutions and systems of violence and intolerance that have been used to commit unspeakable acts of terrorism; and institutions of cooperation that create open democracy.
One of the chairpersons of the constitution-making parliamentary sub-committee tried to dispel fears of political violence during constitutional consultations by saying that they have made a deal with the police to make sure that they would respond to any disorder quickly during the process.
The question is: Why should there be a deal with the law enforcement agents whose clear mandate is to maintain law and order?
After all, we are made to understand that a deal had been made during the first national constitutional reform conference held in July last year which was disturbed by Zanu PF supporters.
It may be important to understand that deal-making at this point may not be enough to create and safeguard the future of Zimbabwe. The real deal is to organise and inform citizens on a broad-based constitutional consultative process.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on September 15 2008 said the agreement was a “painful compromise”. It did not provide instant solutions and may actually need patience. In his own words, he said: “I call on all supporters of Zanu PF and MDC to unite as Zimbabweans. Divisions, polarisation and hatred belong to the past. Safety must be restored to our community; our state institutions must serve the people. Our lives begin now. Let us not be divided by our past, but be united by hope for the future”.
Zimbabweans may want to be reminded that there is still time to heed the call and understand that the future depends on the wisdom of the people to govern themselves.
While fundamental issues within the inclusive government are yet to be resolved, a greater section of citizens passively continue pretending that someone somewhere will soon make a change for them. Actually, attempts to smuggle the Kariba Draft into the process have intensified.
Functionaries of the ancien regime such as some headmen, district administrators, provincial administrators and war veterans have been drafted as facilitators. Their main purpose is to manipulate the consultation process while claiming to defend national sovereignty or land reform.
The time has come to create a national founding document that bears the imprint of the broad, diverse, multiracial, multilingual and multicultural nation. Our current constitution is a ceasefire document that was with each amendment given the executive authority to criminalise civic participation and political pluralism.
Already, its replica, in the form of the Kariba Draft remains Zanu PF’s preferred alternative. Intentional efforts to do away with the constitutions that bear the imprint of dictatorship, violence and its memory must be forgotten.
The new constitution shall be the basis upon which to target and reform those institutions, systems and attitudes used to commit atrocities on the innocent citizens of Zimbabwe.
Citizens may have to be reminded of the need for high levels of tolerance that will ensure that the constitution, the supreme law of the land, reflects the multiple realities of this country — both the dubious and glorious deeds of the pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial life and struggle.
Critical to effective social and economic transformation is refocusing broadly and beyond any political party.
Concerned citizens and community leaders may assist by building sufficient social capital with a supportive collective consciousness in communities to leverage good policy decisions or salvage bad ones.
Credit and support must be given to various civic groups operating both within and outside the framework of the constitutional process that have invaded the public and political forums, policy arenas and courts (including that of public opinion).
The idea is to establish new norms, principles and values upon which to legitimise or de-legitimise certain expressions of public life and popular will in leadership and governance. Community organisation must begin to transform the yesteryear victims of the status quo to be the champions of a new beginning.
Of course, blaming Zanu PF for illegally holding on to power and mutilating the very sacred safeguard of a democracy in the constitution sounds natural.
Lambasting the MDC for holding on to the “unworkable” power-sharing deal and for “behaving like an estranged wife”, or for signing the deal in the first place seems logical and objective.
However, concerned citizens may also ask themselves if they have done enough, if anything at all, to stop the current state of affairs. Citizens must actively participate in co-creating a new dispensation where political players must be made to choose a shared power world or no world at all.
Thabani Nyoni writes from the University of Minnesota, US, where he is on a Hubert Humphrey International Fellowship Programme focusing on Public Policy.