Villagers in President Robert Mugabe’s rural home in Zvimba, 110km west of Harare, and neighbouring Chitomborwizi in Makonde district now strongly believe that those calling for a people-driven constitution, who are opposed to the Kariba draft, want to include the issue of gay rights in the new constitution.
Zanu PF, the villagers allege, is using homosexuality, something which they know people – particularly those in rural areas – are strongly opposed to, to make sure that they parrot what is in the Kariba draft.
Villagers claimed that Zanu PF campaigned for the Kariba draft, written by the three political parties in the inclusive government, during meetings prior to the constitution outreach programme.
Villagers in Chief Chirau’s area, also known as Kawondera village in Zvimba, say that they were addressed by soldiers three weeks ago, who told them that they should demand a constitution with an executive president who has far-reaching powers to appoint without any consultation.
The villagers refused to be named for fear of being victimised for adopting what might be perceived as “anti-Zanu PF” positions on the constitution.
An elderly woman, who had been waiting for almost two hours for an outreach meeting at Kawondera primary school, which was later postponed to Saturday, derided a constitution that promotes gay rights.
“Masoja akati addresser three weeks ago. Vakatiudza kuti vanhu ava varikuda zveconstituation nyowani isiri yeku Kariba, varikuda kuti tibvume zvechingochana. Ah kana ndiwe mwana wangu, zvingaite here kuti ini ndidanane nambuya ava? Kwete hatidi izvozvo. (We were addressed by soldiers three weeks ago. They told us that those opposed to Kariba draft want the new constitution to allow for homosexuality. My child, how can I have a lesbian relationship with this old woman? We say no to that),” she said.
A youth wearing a red cap and a Zanu PF t-shirt with Mugabe’s picture, which he referred to as “hembe yenyika” (Zimbabwean outfit) questioned why Zimbabwe was drafting another constitution when the three political parties wrote and agreed to the Kariba draft.
“We don’t understand why they want another one when there is already Kariba draft,” he said. “My sister, even if we are in rural areas we know that there was a constitution written in Kariba and now what’s wrong with it? We want that one, not the one that they want to write now promoting homosexuality.
“We say No to homosexuality, they want me to marry another man — to pay mombe yehumai (bride price) Ahhh, haizviite (we can’t do that),” he said with a look of disgust.
Zanu PF wants the old executive system comprising a powerful executive president, two vice presidents and a cabinet as advocated in the Kariba draft. It has said no to having a prime minister.
The villagers were not willing to talk about bread and butter issues and were afraid to openly discuss the executive arms of government.
It was clear that there had been some form of intimidation.
Another elderly woman, also from Kawondera village, refused to even hear any questions regarding what kind of an executive arm of government she preferred.
“Handikwanise kutaura nyaya iyoyo (I can’t talk about that issue). Tichangoita ivo zvavanoda (we are just going to do whatever they want),” without clarifying whose wishes she was referring to.
“Handikwanise kutaura zvirimumoyo mangu asi kuti ahh zvavanenge vataura ndizvozvo — Izvozvo zviri muKariba ndizvozvo zvacho. (I can’t say what is in my heart except that whatever they want me to say — what is in Kariba, that is that),” she added after being pressed to state her preferences.
Women said they could speak openly on issues to do with the elderly, orphaned children and widowed women.
They want gender equality, which should mean a 50-50 ratio even in government and cabinet.
The women said the constitution should stipulate that a grant, either in cash or food aid, be given by government to the elderly, orphaned and unemployed widowed women, while the youths were more concerned about government creating job opportunities and ensuring that there are more vocational training centres. The Zimbabwe Independent attended one meeting at Chitomborwizi primary school where villagers seemed to parrot the responses prepared by Zanu PF in its 95-page document on its position.
One particular woman in a purple hat appeared like the spokesperson for the group, with only four youths opposing most of the positions, particularly those related to having an executive president with excessive powers.
She spoke first and another person would second, while the rest would vote in support.
Whenever people spoke on issues regarding appointments to commissions or other arms of government, they would say “the executive president should” or that they should go back to the situation before the inclusive government where there was no need for any consultation.
On the judiciary, the group of about 40 people agreed that the judiciary should remain as it was and that Supreme Court decisions should not be challenged.
They said the appointment of judges and the Judicial Service Commission should be done by the “executive president”, while the youths preferred a commission appointed by parliament to select judges without any input from the president.
The villagers said the executive president should appoint the attorney-general, auditor and comptroller-general, ombudsman, Reserve Bank governor, Public Service Commission, Anti-Corruption Commission, Media Commission, Electoral Commission, Human Rights Commission, Truth and Justice Commission, Gender Commission and Land Commission. In addition, the villagers said the president should appoint heads of the police, defence forces, prisons services and cabinet.
All these appointments, they said, should be done by the president without consultation, as is prescribed in the Zanu PF’s document.
Responding to a question on whether parliament or a standing order committee of parliament should approve cabinet appointments, Zanu PF said: “There is no need for parliamentary approval of the President’s appointments of cabinet ministers since the president is popularly elected directly by the people.”
The youths opposed this, saying that would give too much power to one person without any checks and balances, to which there were interjections.
On transitional mechanisms, the villagers agreed that one of the two vice presidents, who would be acting at that time should take over for 90 days after which he/she should call an election.
“President vakarwara kana kufa (if the president is sick or if he dies), the acting president should take over for 90 days and not the prime minister — one of the two vice presidents,” said the woman in the purple hat.
The villagers said they did not want a prime minister because it was “foreign” and not African as there was none on the continent.