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Archive for the 'Constitution Referendum 2013' Category

Constitution, what’s it good for?

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Thursday, June 13th, 2013 by Bev Clark

Um, excuse me … so, like, what’s a constitution good for?

Our Constitution as well provides for a minimum 30-day period of campaigning to a maximum of 42 days before the election date. This means that after the nomination court sitting of the 24th July 2013, the earliest that the election could be held is the 25th August 2013. The point being made is that President Mugabe has acted unlawfully and unconstitutionally and is deliberately creating and precipitating an unnecessary Constitutional crisis. The Constitution makes the President the chief upholder and defender of the Constitution. It is therefore regrettable that the chief defender and upholder has become the chief attacker and abuser of the Constitution. - Morgan Tsvangirai, Press Statement 13 June 2013

Democracy, what democracy?

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Thursday, June 13th, 2013 by Marko Phiri

“Unilateral” is a word that must be trending in Zimbabwe’s Twittersphere today after President Robert Mugabe took the country back to 1965.

Despite all the “magnanimity” he seemingly had extended to Morgan Tsvangirai in the past weeks, he brews this shocker.

There’s been near-punch ups in the virtual world of the World Wide Web as peeved Zimbos trade barbs, stuff that a revolution would be made of were such energy channeled towards the source of that anger.

In today’s Herald the presidential spokesman is quoted as saying “the Head of State and Government and Commander-in-Chief of the Zimbabwe Defence Forces would not be persuaded to violate the laws of the country” by defying the ConCourt’s ruling compelling to hold elections by 31 July.

Of course this was after reports emerged that some political parties were petitioning the President of the Republic to oppose the declaration.

I am always surprised when Zimbabweans are surprised by such developments!

Perhaps people have very short memories, but this is the Zanu PF modus operandi, and for anyone to expect anything else from this party would be a case of inveterate naivety. The thing is, where do we go from here, what with SADC also expected to be the ultimate arbiter of this political circus?

One certain thing about this latest declaration is that it entrenches apathetic attitudes to electoral processes as some say if Mugabe can unilaterally call for polls despite Tsvangirai’s own earlier declaration that he holds the keys to elections, what is to stop him (Mugabe) from declaring himself a winner in the elections, or as he did in 2008 refuse to accept defeat.

Yet that should be motivation enough for Zimbabweans who have heeded the call to register and also check the voters roll to exercise their franchise to the fullest and show the power mongers who is in charge, or else attempting to kick Zanu PF in the butt will equate to just another fool’s errand.

Look who’s laughing now. Democracy, what democracy?

It’s a privilege to be a Member of Parliament or a Senator

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Wednesday, June 12th, 2013 by Lenard Kamwendo

Dear Harare Westerners

I just got my “marching orders” from the Clerk of Parliament Mr. A. M. Zvoma who reminded me that my time is up as my term of office as Member of the House of Assembly for Harare West constituency will expire at midnight on 29 June 2013 when Parliament shall stand dissolved by operation of Section 63 of the Constitution which states that:

“63 Prorogation or dissolution

(2)Subject to the provisions of this Constitution, the President may at any time dissolve Parliament.
(4)Parliament, unless sooner dissolved, shall last for five years, which period shall be deemed to commence on the day the person elected as President enters office in terms of section 28(5) after an election referred to in section 28(3)(a), and shall stand dissolved:”

It’s funny how 5 years fly so fast, it seems like yesterday when I was sworn in on 27 August 2008, to serve you Harare West. It is a privilege and honour that I enjoyed.

A message of appreciation from Hon Jessie Majome’s Facebook page should be a reminder to all those Zimbabwean legislators who have been thinking that it is by their birthright to be in Parliament. Such privileges have been abused by so many to an extent that they think that being a Member of Parliament or Senator is somehow related to chieftainship. Well as noted by Hon Majome after Parliament has been dissolved she will be jobless and it is the people who would bestow that privilege back on her so that she can have another term in office. The reality of being jobless to many MPs is still in the cloud, which is why some are still dreaming of an extension of the inclusive government. Its hard to leave an all expenses, paid hotel life and the unproductive time spent heckling in Parliament at the expense of the electorate and facing the daunting task of convincing these same people to grant you another opportunity to represent them again. The realities of being reduced to be another ordinary member of society will make some develop health complications as fear of rejection builds up.

Well suck it up and understand that what goes up really comes down and give others a chance in the next elections.

Access to information and the right to vote

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Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 by Marko Phiri

A question was asked during an election reporting workshop concerning how journalists and civic organisations can report or walk the fine line between bringing knowledge to the people and not attract the wrath of the authorities who have criminalised voter education.

It highlighted the problem many have with the conditions that prevail as the country prepares for elections whereby while political parties are encouraging supporters to vote on one hand, and on the other institutions expected to play a role in ensuring that the same voters make informed decisions being fettered by the threat of imprisonment.

Anyone seeking to make inroads into remote rural areas for example to “educate” voters does that at their own peril, and it has to be queried how then a people known to have no access to radio, TV and newspapers are supposed to participate in processes they have no clue about.

It could well be a replay of the referendum where voters merely followed instructions from their political parties and vote for issues they have no clue about.

And because this is a high stakes poll, we can expect all voters to be denied by the usual suspects all the information they need to make informed decisions.

This buttresses the charge that rural folks are “instructed” or “persuaded” with brute force who to vote for, and we have already read about Jabulani Sibanda “frightening” villagers in Lupane, which is just the beginning of worse things to come.

Common sense would tell you that the period in the run-up to elections provides insight into the credibility of any poll, and Sibanda’s reported actions in rural Matebeleland only serve to cast more doubt into the country’s – or Zanu PF’s seeing that he is a Zanu PF functionary – commitment to creating conditions “ideal for a free and fair election.”

And because these rural constituencies have rather unflatteringly been labeled as “unsophisticated” they are seen as very malleable in the hands of political hoodlums, and it is here where an informed voter can take charge of their political circumstances and indeed political future.

Thus we hear exhortations from some quarters that the rural folks must remain docile and allow themselves to be herded to rallies but make their choices known inside the voting booth!

A famous Tony Namate cartoon back in the 1990s actually has a peasant woman mischievously winking as she puts her “X” on a candidate contesting against Zanu PF, and while such commentary did indeed help magnify the extent of what has become a post-independence millstone around our necks, Zanu PF has still been able to claim the vote, raising questions whether if at all rural folk “vote freely.”

But it’s a debate that will take forever as some have already opined that Zanu PF has never allowed defeat to stand in the way to claim victory!

It thus has become a well-worn cliché that access to information is the bedrock of all electoral processes and democracy, yet we find ourselves doing the same things over, and over but still expecting to get different results.

It is essentially because of this that some of the most vocal people you meet in the street criticizing the status quo go to the pub instead when other citizens join long queues under the blazing African sun to cast their vote!

Another issue to look out for again this year would be the spread of newspapers, which areas they reach as they seek to report about the pre-election climate.

Yet one thing that has precedence is the “outlawing” of certain titles from certain areas where reading a particular paper has in the not-so-distant past been a punishable offence with vigilantes using cudgels on fellow villagers for merely reading a newspaper of their choice.

To an outsider it sounds crazy, but this is what we can expect in the coming months, that is if it is not happening already.

Compromise or Compromised?

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Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by Marko Phiri

An important book that takes a critical look at the state of democracy in Zimbabwe was published early this year and is an invaluable tool in assessing our political landscape as the country eyes elections later this year. Compromise or Compromised? An Assessment of Democracy in Transitional Zimbabwe published by the now defunct Institute for Democracy in Africa (Idasa) “is intended to set the benchmark for democracy to be measured against in the future” and “the hope is that citizens…can use the Democracy Index to assess and debate the state of their democracy” (p.1).

Kudakwashe Chitsike, who co-edits the book with Amy Eaglestone, writes that the “purpose of this book is to analyse the state of democracy in Zimbabwe since the signing of the Global Political Agreement” (p.2). It uses Idasa’s Democracy Index and scores each question addressed by contributors between 1-10:

1-4 / inadequate or falling short of the democratic ideal
5 / stable but insufficient
6 / stable and inadequate
7 / improving
8-10 / excellent and also close to the democratic ideal

It can only be hoped that as we approach elections, attitudes by political elites toward the electoral processes do change as scores in the Elections and Democracy Index did not inspire any confidence in these processes. For example the question “do all citizens believe that their vote is secret” scored 2 out of a possible 10! Then, “to what extent do citizens believe that the electoral system reflects the will of the people” also scored 2 out of a possible 10!

Chitsike explains that “this Index is different from previous democracy indices … as it looks at democracy in the perspective of gender… In Zimbabwe, participation in democratic processes for women is an uphill battle as the domination of women practiced at family level is carried into the public arena.” (p5).

This therefore is a welcome book especially now when the new Constitution seeks to mainstream gender and bring more female visibility to the country’s body politic. It is also a welcome addition to the body of knowledge of the country’s false steps to inclusive politics and democratic processes as it will be used a reference point for checks and balances in keeping vigilance on any false promises the political elites make to the citizens.

The book is divided into five sections, namely Participation and Democracy which scores a low 3.4 average, Elections and Democracy (2.9), Accountability and Democracy (2.2), Political Freedom and Democracy (2.9) and Human Dignity and Democracy (3).

The two editors and six contributors are drawn from diverse backgrounds that include human rights, law, development and their rich field experience offers refreshing insights into contemporary Zimbabwe’s political landscape. It will be a useful tool for anyone who seeks to steer the country from the opprobrium it has attracted in the past 15 or so years and make informed decisions that indeed seek to create a better Zimbabwe. It’s not too late.

Let the people’s voices be heard!

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Monday, May 20th, 2013 by Marko Phiri

A report by the Mass Public Opinion Institute titled “Elections and the Management of Diversity in Zimbabwe” which is part of an Africa wide project under the auspices of the United Nations Economic Commission for African together with the UNDP is one of the latest that does not place much confidence in the country’s electoral processes.

The report, first begun in 2011, is part of the Africa Governance Report launched in 1999 when the Economic Commission for Africa launched its project on “Assessing and Monitoring the Progress towards Good Governance in Africa.”

Like many projects before it that elicited inputs from Zimbabweans as diverse as “experts” and the “common people”, the MPOI report, among other things, found that 45 percent of the respondents “thought the judiciary is hardly independent of other branches of government.”

Up to 62 percent of the respondents “either disagreed or strongly disagreed” with the statement that “the composition of government and leadership represents all segments (of society) and (its) diverse interests.”

That is damning by any standards.

It raises questions about the role of elections in people’s lives and their ability to choose their leaders.

That many Zimbabwe have given up on voting is already known not only from Afrobarometre and Freedom House but also from our daily interactions with colleagues and strangers, yet as we approach this year’s elections, these issues become pertinent as political parties campaign to persuade their supporters not only to register to vote but indeed vote.

What then is the use of exciting the masses with the mobile voter registration exercise then when the same people have lost faith in the electoral processes?

One telling response came from a respondent in Bulawayo who said “Zanu PF does not consider the views of the people, not even those of its own party (supporters).”

Such attitudes from political parties mean many potential voters will need a lot of convincing that Zimbabwe is a representative democracy where the “people’s voice” matters.

The logic is simple really: why listen to a politician asking for your views when his mind is already made up that once you vote him into office, you will see him again at your doorstep after five years.

The interaction of politicians and voters surely has to be much, much improved from the criticism that emerged for example with the March referendum where critics say party supporters were merely instructed to vote “YES” without even knowing what they were voting for.

Besides that, a report like that of the MPOI only adds to a heap of work about Zimbabwe that has failed to nudge the country towards good governance.