THE debate over the Copac draft constitution has gone on for the past few weeks with the state media, both print and electronic, supporting the unilateral amendments Zanu PF made to the agreed document now dividing the public and coalition government.
Report by Gee WekuMazowe
Zanu PF has justified these amendments, arguing the people’s views in the national report had been overlooked during the drafting process. However, what was captured in the so-called national report does not in any way reflect the views of the people during the outreach programme for a number of reasons.
The Copac outreach programme started in the rural areas, with the intention to end the exercise in urban areas. But after completing the outreach programme in the rural regions and upon moving into the urban areas, the exercise failed to take off smoothly amid political clashes and disruptions, mainly by Zanu PF hooligans who did not want the urbanites to express their views. As a result many people in urban areas were left out of the loop.
More than 50% of the country’s population which is dominated by young people now generally resides in urban areas. Most of the youths, the bulk of the voters, who live in urban areas are important in shaping the future of the country. This is one reason why those who analysed the collected data argued they could not use quantitative analysis of the data. To do so would have meant giving the data collected from the rural areas more weight than it should have.
Secondly, in the run up to the rural outreach programme, Zanu PF, which right from the beginning wanted to control the process, content and the output, mobilised its structures, war vets and youths to go around coaching and intimidating people, telling them what they should say during the outreach programmes — rigging the process.
A few individuals were selected and made to memorise what they were going to say during the outreach programme. Villagers were also told the majority of them would remain quiet during meetings as only a selected few individuals were supposed to contribute in the stage-managed contributions. Anyone who dared contribute when they had not been authorised to do so would be punished afterwards for expressing themselves without permission.
In some areas the outreach programme continued for a number of days but the same people went around repeating the same things they had been coached to say. This cannot be said to have been a genuine effort to capture the views of the “people” as Zanu PF planted its Kariba draft ideas and views that its leader wanted reflected in the national report and hence the new constitution.
The two MDC formations have argued that since Zanu PF claims it has incorporated the people’s views into its own draft, which it now wants the three parties to adopt, why not take both the Copac draft and the Zanu PF draft to the referendum. Surely if Zanu PF correctly incorporated people’s views, voters will choose its draft.
Zanu PF is opposed to this because it knows given a choice people will not vote for its draft. That is why those who are making so much noise, claiming Zanu PF has aligned the national and Copac report are unwilling to subject both drafts to the referendum and are in fact even denying that their wholesale changes amount to producing a different draft.
Zanu PF’s fears are understandable: if people vote in secret they will this time get an opportunty to truly express their real position on the new constitution.
The problem is Zanu PF bigwigs seem to now believe that they own the country and can do whatever they want with it, including imposing a constitution. They even now call themselves “revolutionary or liberation party”, insinuating they are the only legitimate embodiment and expression of the people’s hopes and aspirations.
Zanu PF needs to be reminded that Zimbabweans collectively and in their diversity fought for this country to ensure democracy and one man-one vote. So why should a small section of society be allowed to take away the rights of citizens, including their right to decide what sort of a constitution they would want and who should rule them?
We also have a situation where war veterans think that since they went to war to liberate this country they are entitled to hold special views and the nation to ransom. They need to be reminded that there are millions of children, who have equal citizens’ rights like them, who were born after independence and who are now eligible to vote but might have different views to theirs.
War veterans should also be reminded that they fought the war together with the masses; if the people did not support them by feeding, clothing and giving them vital information and protection they would not have won the struggle that way.
Now the same war veterans are taking those masses for granted by beating and threatening them with death for merely expressing divergent views to theirs. Is that the democracy which Zimbabweans fought for? Is that what people died for during the liberation struggle?
It should also be made clear that in drafting this current constitution, we are looking at the future rather than at the current situation. The constitution-making process cannot and should not be about protecting or removing anybody from power. It should not be about short-term and electoral-driven interests, but national interests — the future of the country and its people.
The current Copac process and the resultant draft are a result of compromises between the three political parties involved. That is common cause. All contentious issues were referred by the negotiators to their parties for a position and it is therefore puzzling why Zanu PF now disowns what its team agreed on and appended their signatures to. Should we conclude Zanu PF Copac negotiators did not consult their party on important issues to get direction or they consulted but ignored their principals?
A constitution is designed to limit the exercise of state power and this is what the Copac draft seeks to do. Hiding behind the misleading national report, which contains views of one party that manipulated the outreach programme, can hardly be the best way to produce a well-thought-out and durable constitution in a global and changing environment, particularly given the report is just a clear sham.
- WekuMazowe followed the Copac process closely. He writes in his personal capacity.