Lately I had a chance to debate the recent constitutional referendum outcome with Copac co-chair Paul Mangwana, focusing on the legitimacy of the “Yes” vote.
Opinion by Rawlings Magede
His argument was Zimbabweans did well by grabbing this historic opportunity presented to them and voted in favour of the draft as this process had taken a lot of time and money.
He went to further argue there is no constitution that can best meet the expectations of being “people-driven”, citing even the American one written by less than five people and yet it is ranked as one of the best in the world.
To him the fact that only a “handful” of people in Zimbabwe were consulted during the outreach programme, does not matter because in the end it was “people-driven”.
While there might be a grain of truth in his argument I reminded him that the United States and Zimbabwe are different countries at different socio-economic and political stages of development, hence they are worlds apart and cannot be casually compared to each other.
As far as Mangwana, as a citizen, is concerned, he thinks his job was done because he claims he delivered a new constitution, 33 years after independence.
But he wrongfully thinks history will absolve him and his colleagues for delivering such a shoddy and flawed constitution to the people of Zimbabwe. I told him that constitutions across the world are based on the country’s history and circumstances, hence the Lancaster House constitution was amended 19 times as it fell short in addressing critical issues.
I later on jokingly concluded to him that if there was anywhere in the world where constitutions should not provide for an executive president, then it’s in Africa, the place where power is terribly abused by powerful incumbents to unleash terror and mayhem against citizens.
The real political idiots in Zimbabwe are not those who oppose and question undemocratic decisions taken by politicians and labelled “nhinhi” (thick and uncooperative), but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn from history. They are those who herd people like cattle into unprincipled terrains where the grass will not be greener for the future generations.
The question should be: is the next generation going to be proud of decisions that we make for them on this constitution?
History teaches us that if too much power is given to an individual, where he is the sole appointing authority of all key posts, then it will be abused and there will be untold suffering.
While this writer feels pity for the two MDC formations in the inclusive government and some malleable civic society organisations for conniving to impose the Copac draft amid its widespread approval at the referendum even if it is an elitist document, those who voted for it might not have seriously considered the consequences of their decision. For some people, no matter what the content of the draft is, “progress” had been made to do away with the Lancaster House constitution.
They actually were hoodwinked into believing that Zanu PF was sincere in calling for unity and peace and the need to “move” the country forward by voting “Yes”.
Little did they know that they were wrong and in the end Zanu PF managed to achieve what it had always wanted to: writing a constitution that protects its own narrow political interests — mainly executive power which is very key especially now ahead of watershed general elections. There is no vocabulary in the dictionary that can best describe such sell-out tendencies by the MDC parties and some civic groups.
While some Zimbabweans were campaigning for a “No” vote to stop Zanu PF machinations, they were harangued and called all sorts of names including being labelled retrogressive elements even when it was clear the “Yes” vote was not about progress, moving the country forward, but narrow political agendas.
The MDC parties will learn it the hard way. Zanu PF has not changed. Before the ink on the ballot papers could even dry, a top human rights defender, Beatrice Mtetwa was arrested for allegedly “shouting” at the police. To make matters worse, four staffers in Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s office were also arrested. More arrests followed. The premier even tried to get them released, but to no avail.
What does that show? At one point I used to believe Tsvangirai was the man with his finger on the pulse of public opinion and interests of the people at heart, but after endorsing this shoddy draft constitution by whipping his supporters into line, I now have serious doubts.
He got the “Yes” votes by even misrepresenting the draft to voters, claiming the new constitution clips executive power when it doesn’t? Having read the draft, I still wonder what he was talking about.
While many of his supporters see the world in binary terms, that is MDC-T versus Zanu PF, what they fail to understand however is that our politics transcend these two political parties. There are many interest groups and organisations which are part and parcel of our politics out there.
This new constitution will not change much. It did not address key issues around the executive structure, Attorney-General’s Office and judiciary, for instance. We will continue to see unwarranted arrests and detentions even after courts have cleared victims just like in the Mtetwa case.
The trouble is the MDC parties and civic groups sold out their principles just because they wrongfully think that they are always right and should never be questioned and can never be wrong. That is dangerous thinking which must be opposed and discouraged.
While this shoot-from-the-hip approach by civic society to endorse a fraudulent draft constitution against better advice on the basis that the MDC parties had endorsed it, has triumphed — unfortunately when the history of Zimbabwe is written it will not be kind to these sell-outs. The real story behind this yet to be fully-told but just like the sun shall rise tomorrow — it will be told.
Magede is a political enthusiast and writes from Nkayi, Matebeleland North province. firstname.lastname@example.org