HomeOpinionNew constitution: The myths, facts and fiction

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The reality however is that the draft constitution produced by Copac is a significant improvement from the current Lancaster House constitution. We should however not fool ourselves into thinking that a new constitution will solve all our problems, although it may deal with many of them. I would also like to dispel other popular myths around the new constitution as well as highlight facts, fiction and realities.

Copac a political reality

It is a fact that constitution-making processes do not occur in vacuums but take place within particular environments and are thus influenced by the prevailing socio-economic and political conditions or realities of the day. To this extent the inclusive government and its Copac process are a political reality no matter how undesirable they may be.

In the absence of viable alternatives, the flawed Copac process remains the only politically feasible option for now. Whilst the constituent assembly or constitutional commission model may in theory be the best and most ideal, it is currently difficult and unrealistic to go this route given our explosive transitional context. Copac may indeed be a circus but it cannot be dismissed entirely as this would be tantamount to throwing away the baby with bath water.

Negotiated constitution-making process 

It is an undisputable fact that the constitution-making process in its entirety will be negotiated. It is obviously undesirable that three political parties should define the constitutional destiny of the country but the reality is that the current process is built around the inclusive government’s architecture. The “unholy trinity of the two MDC parties and Zanu PF” will thus continue in the driving seat as a result of the “adulterous circumstances” that gave birth to the undesirable but inescapable political arrangement.

No constitution is perfect

It would be an absolute fallacy to think that the new constitution will be perfect as it may require amendments to suit changing socio-political demands and standards. We may produce a very good document that will stand the test of time but it would be naïve to conclude that the new constitution will be a perfect document, especially given the imperfect political conditions in which the constitution-making process operated. These imperfect conditions are the product of disputed elections and the subsequent negotiated settlement; hence the new constitution would be a compromise document.

Constitution will solve all our problems

The new constitution will not solve all our problems. It will build a solid foundation upon which we can build a democracy but it will not necessarily deliver democracy as this will be dependent on other variables such as political will by the government of the day, sound leadership, adherence to the rule of law and the depth of constitutionalism in our society. The new constitution is the software upon which the infrastructure of democracy is built, but deliverables will remain the domain of other functions and assumptions such as a competent government and capable leadership.

A new constitution will not necessarily deliver a sound economy but it will create an  architecture to ensure  an enabling environment for economic growth and social justice.

We may not get everything now

Since constitution-making takes place in the context of certain political and economic realities, it would be impractical to expect this imperfect process to produce a perfect product. Not everything that pro-democracy forces are demanding will necessarily be included in the new constitution but we have to fight to the bitter end for all our aspirations to be contained in the draft. It would be unrealistic and impractical for the pro-democracy movement to expect all its demands to be met in this negotiated space intoxicated by Zanu PF dominance in the inclusive government and strong reactionary forces.

Democratic change is sometimes incremental and evolutionary and wholesale change may not be attainable now. It may be possible in a more democratic environment which is not monopolised by three political parties but the current political reality created by the GPA framework is such that the entire process will be negotiated by the three parties.

 

What civil society, the church and organised business need to do is to continuously engage, interrogate, advocate and negotiate for their demands to be met. Those who want to boycott the process have a legitimate right to engage in informed dissent or non-violent and non co-operation, but they have to claim their space demands on alternative processes.

 

It is therefore not treacherous for the NCA, ZCTU or Zinasu to boycott the process if they have legitimate grounds to do so. They in turn should not label those who participate as sell-outs as we are all part of one struggle, but our strategies differ. Ultimately it is a belief in a new Zimbabwe epitomised by a new constitution, democratic values and social-economic transformation that should bind us together.

Elections need new constitution

The new constitution is not being drafted merely to facilitate credible elections but to create good governance beyond polls. However, in the context of our political reality there has to be a new constitution before elections are held. The new constitution will not just be an instrument of regime change or regime retention but rather a transformational document creating democratic systems and structures in the regulation of the relationship between the governed and the governing.

We are not creating a new constitution so that we have democratic elections only, but we are crafting a new charter so that we can build a democratic and prosperous Zimbabwe.

New constitution certain

Despite all the talk, the fact isZimbabwe will get a new constitution. Whatever Robert Mugabe or Jonathan  Moyo  say or do, the fact of the  matter is devolution of power in the new constitution is “an idea whose time has come” and nothing will stop us from marching into the future with a new system of government which respects and protects diversity, promotes equitable distribution of resources, equal opportunity and social justice. Zanu PF should wake up from its political Disneyland and accept this reality.

 

Nkomo is Habakkuk Trust CEO. He writes here in his personal capacity. Email: dumisani.nkomo@gmail.com or blog www. dumisanionkomo.blogspot.com.

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