This week, main actors in Zimbabwe’s constitutional discussion, Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa, Constitution Parliamentary Committee (Copac) spokesperson Jessie Majome, and National Constitutional Assembly chairman Lovemore Madhuku met for a public debate in the capital to defend their positions.
First on the podium was Chinamasa who defended Zanu PF’s insistence on using the Kariba Draft as a basis for the new constitution. Madhuku, a fierce critic of Copac, described the whole process as useless. Jessie Majome, a member of Copac’s media committee, defended the process as imperfect but necessary. Below are excerpts from the debate:
Chinamasa: My own philosophy on constitution-making is that we should never have a situation where laws or the constitution are cast in stone. A constitution must be a living document which responds to the needs of the population and more so when the population is at its development stage.
That document (Kariba Draft) is not a Zanu PF document. It’s a document of all parties, Zanu PF, MDC-M and MDC-T, but true, none of us had gone to the people before writing the document. Now where are we? As you know for the past 10 years, especially from 2000, we had polarisation and conflict in our country. This conflict, it was very difficult to know who was fuelling it or what the cause was. But we then decided as far back as 2002 to open dialogue between Zanu PF and the MDC which came in as an opposition in 2000. I was leading our team and Professor Welshman Ncube was leading the MDC team.
I think it didn’t last one week. And the dialogue broke down essentially over the land question because it became clear that the motive behind the dialogue was that we should reverse what we had started in 2000 (the land question) and we were not prepared to do that.
Although the talks broke down, Prof Ncube and I decided to continue in informal discussions; it was basically to assist us find whether a common threat that could help us resolve the conflict that we were facing. And so we met in 2002, 2003, 2004 we were meeting at my house (people laugh). Yes, as these were informal and we didn’t want anyone to know we were meeting. But when we met I asked what the problem was and Prof Ncube said it was the constitution. I said no it can’t be the constitution. As far as we are concerned it’s the land question.
The first two things that we discussed in our dialogue were the land question and the constitution. We also started to discuss the issue of the land question and that’s what you now find in the Global Political Agreement on the land question. Basically it was something we had agreed at that time, but had to be formalised later. Later on the talks became formal and the team was enlarged to have two from each political party. Later on after the MDC split we became six instead of four. We again went through what we had discussed informally and we discussed the land question, constitution, economic recovery and sanctions.
Eventually in a six-team negotiating forum we then initiated the so-called Kariba Draft in Kariba. As far as I am concerned the people currently are writing the constitution. They may not realise the import of what they are saying but clearly they are writing the constitution. At the end of the day I believe that whatever issue is adopted by the people we should support it and adopt it, that I think is the most important. I am aware that all the parties have been moving around telling the people what to say, but at the end of the day let us listen to the people.
Madhuku: I don’t believe that the people are doing anything at the moment. The country is going through a very difficult period. Why I call it difficult is that the politicians that are in charge of our country are going through a process which is completely useless. When something is completely useless you must wonder why it is being done. Why are they wasting money, resources and wasting precious time. More so our leaders are involved in defending Copac and that is the reason why our country will remain where we are. Our leaders are engaging in things that don’t add value to the country.
As NCA, our concerns are very clear. It is that we must strive as a country to become a more democratic country, a more open society where leaders are more accountable and obviously focusing on issues and making of a constitution is one such device where we would want to come up with a document which we feel people own and say this is how we want to be governed. The Copac process is on. No-one was able to stop it and the reason why we did not want to stop Copac is that we don’t want to waste our energies. We knew that Copac was going to kill itself.
In our law for a draft to go to a referendum it must be presented to the referendum by the president, not the prime minister and not the inclusive government. It is the president acting alone. Don’t listen to all they say that a discussion will be done. The president of our country, which we all know will not send to a referendum a draft which does not reveal the views of his party, will make the decision
We are not saying politicians should not be involved. They have a big role to play. It must simply be them ensuring that the money we have in the country goes to constitution-making, ensuring that the police provide law and order during the process. But the process of gathering the views of the people and converting those views into a draft constitution must not be led by politicians and that is the point that we are making.
Majome: Is there a perfect way of writing the constitution and also who are the people? Are there any more people who are more people than other people? I differ with what Dr Madhuku said that this process does not add value to the Zimbabwe process. I do not think that any process at all by which Zimbabweans actually sit down under a tree or in a hall and stand up to say their views about how they want Zimbabwe to be run is a wasted process. That process itself is actually another means to national healing.This process that Zimbabweans have embarked upon is clearly not perfect at all. I think nothing is in this life at all. But it is clearly an attempt by Zimbabweans to embrace the ideals of constitutionalism which, Zimbabweans agree that its governance should be based upon certain principles that are enshrined a constitution. — Staff Writer.