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ZANU-PF Communiqué on Constitution-making Vindicates Madhuku

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Despite indications to the contrary by MDC in government, on the 17th of June 2009 ZANU – PF politburo in Harare issued a communiqué endorsing the so-called Kariba Draft Constitution as the basis of consultations on the new constitution-making process.  The position taken by ZANU-PF is the clearest indication yet, that the former ruling party has no intention of embracing a genuine people-driven process and that it already has set positions on what it wants to see in a new constitution, that is, views expressed in the Kariba Draft, a document crafted by a few male lawyers on a luxury cruise boat on lake Kariba.

ZANU-PF has shown its true colours, and, in so doing, has vindicated Dr Lovemore Madhuku – Chairperson of the NCA – who repeatedly warned that government cannot and must not be trusted with constitution-making. Currently Zimbabwe’s executive wields too much power to all for a genuinely people-driven and democratic process to take place; much of the power, de facto, is vested in the office of the president of Zimbabwe – Robert Mugabe. As a matter of fact, one of the catalysts and driving factors for the initial call for constitutional reform was the need to strip the executive of the monstrous powers it currently enjoys.

Sadly, many did not heed Madhuku’s call, perhaps because the MDC had endorsed a parliament-led constitution-making process and had assured the nation (through constitutional affairs minister Eric Matinenga) that the parliamentary process would be genuinely as inclusive as possible and would not use the Kariba draft as a basis for consultations. I understand even donors abandoned the NCA and shifted their support to the government process. Now, even before the process gets underway, ZANU-PF, first, seeks to postpone consultations, and now, decides as politburo, that a particular draft must be used as a basis for all consultations. I wonder what MDC’s response to this will be.

But clearly, these developments underline the need to approach this new government with great caution and not to rush to abandon civil society initiatives simply because MDC is now “in government.” Rather, the international community should continue to support and strengthen civil society, especially local organizations like the NCA, so that they continue to keep government in check and to be the conscience of society. With the MDC in government Zimbabwe desperately needs stronger and not weaker civil society organizations.

ZANU-PF and MDC should not proceed with consultations on the new constitution without taking all major stakeholders on board. If government pushes ahead with its version of consultations based on a Kariba draft that is widely rejected as illegitimate there is a real risk that we will end up with the same result constitutional referendum result of February 2000; an outright rejection of government arrogance by the people and a resounding no vote to rubberstamping undemocratic government initiatives.  We should learn from the past so that we do not have to wait for constitutional referendum results to get the message which is already loud and clear.

With some in the MDC (collectively) desperately defending and sanitizing disastrous ZANU-PF policies and practices, the need for an independent voice linked to ordinary people on the ground becomes even more urgent. What with utterances like ones made by Arthur Mutambara to ZBC in response to a fair and balanced assessment of the human rights situation in Zimbabwe by Amnesty (that the human rights situation remains precarious and reforms progress has been woefully slow) that “Amnesty International is hallucinating! And has no moral authority. ”

Well, need we closely examine Mutambara’s own moral authority to speak for the people of Zimbabwe as their Deputy Prime Minister? Need we recall how he lost a parliamentary seat to a little known MDC activist in the dormitory town of Chitungwiza? Is it hallucination to observe that WOZA women are being beaten and brutalized by police? Is it hallucination to note that MDC Director-General, Toendepi Shonhe is languishing at remand prison on trumped up and ludicrous perjury charges? Is it hallucination when four journalists are denied their fundamental right to cover a COMESA summit in open defiance to a directive by the Prime Minister and a valid High Court order?

Evidence is there for anyone to see that all is not well in the new power-sharing government. Why should anyone pretend otherwise? All these leaders want to hear is that Zimbabwe’s inflation came down from 500 billion percent to 1 percent in a day, a pyrrhic victory if you ask me, because it means little to mothers in Budiriro who no access to US$ government international trips travel and subsistence allowances. Suddenly, literally in the twinkling of an eye, the truth and call for justice, which for long defined MDC’s struggle, has become quite inconvenient. Demands to end impunity are inopportune, they should be swept under the carpet lest they upset His Excellency and scuttle the deal, which we are constantly reminded is the only game in town. We are being short-changed by our leaders, we deserve better.

The mistake that we Zimbabweans risk making is to assume that, since the language of democracy, human rights and good governance was on the lips of our leaders yesterday, then those values remain forever embedded in their hearts, making it virtually impossible for leaders with the surname Democratic Change, to be undemocratic. Nothing can be further from the truth. Words are cheap; deployed to win support when it is convenient, but soon abandoned and forgotten. That, I am told, is the game of politics.  On that note I end by quoting from a speech made by Robert Mugabe to the people of Zimbabwe on 17 April, 1980, on the eve of our independence “As we become a new people we are called to be constructive, progressive and forever forward looking, for we cannot afford to be men of yesterday, backward- looking, retrogressive and destructive…Our new mind must have a new vision and our new hearts new love that spurns hate, and a new spirit that must unite and not divide.” I rest my case.

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