Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Deception of Zimbabwes Draft Constitution

By Takura Zhangazha*

I have not yet read the COPAC draft constitution. And I will probably not read it because I do not have to. Its a document that can no longer take my views into account. No matter how many times academics or political gladiators defend or disparage it. I am also aware that some colleagues in civil society are under tremendous pressure to defend it, warts and all, as a 'better than before' document, and sure enough they will be convening various public meetings to discuss the document's content from a legal perspective. The politics of the document will be conveniently forgotten and an initially silent campaign to seek to persuade Zimbabweans to vote 'yes' to the draft is most definitely underway, even though its final content is yet to be approved by the principals of the inclusive government. Not that such approval makes the document any more democratic. It just simply means this draft constitution is imbued with the personalities and politics of President Mugabe, Prime Minister Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Mutambara and Minister Ncube.

Even the COPAC management committee together with its select committee cannot do anything else to this document. They have haggled, had numerous workshops and spent over US$20 million (another figure made public has been US$45million) on a draft whose final contents will be determined by just four individuals. But that is not the essential point, even though it makes one wonder,where the COPAC chairpersons get the wherewithal to still claim to have been running a 'people-centered' constitutional reform process.

The key issue is that for all our analysis of the COPAC draft, it is a document that can only now be changed by four individuals. To seek to claim that it is a better document by way of legal analysis and to have Zimbabweans support it, is an exercise in political hypocrisy. This is because to all intents and purposes, even without reading the draft, the political processes that have informed this document are very similar to those that led to the first Kariba draft. In fact, this new draft should merely be referred to as the Kariba 2 document because the politicians that wrote the first version are the players that are now in charge of the second version. And if anyone wants to change the content of the draft, they would be well advised to simply make a beeline to the offices of the President, Prime Minister and the other two ministers.

A second element that points to the hypocrisy of our politicians has been their intention to conveniently forget the monumental disaster that has been COPAC itself. From its beginning to present day, COPAC has failed to demonstrate the requisite seriousness that is nomrally reserved for processes as important as the drafting of a national constitution. Against better advice, it ignored its own outreach findings, sidelined civil society and spent lavishly on hotels, conferences for things and issues which it, in the final analysis has not even seriously considered. Even if its mandate was patently undemocratic, it failed meet the requirements of performance criteria it had set for itself.

Thirdly, the fact that the conversations around constitutional reform have shifted to content does not make the process any more democratic. To argue about the content pre-supposes that it can be changed. Alternatively to debate the content can also be taken to mean indirect approval of the document and therefore, to be a willing player in an undemocratically arrived at draft constitution.

The truth of the matter is that the Kariba 2 draft constitution is not going to undergo any major changes, and even if it does, those changes will not be coming from civil society but the four principals in government. Added to this is that the defence of the document that has begun to be undertaken by some colleagues in civil society means that they are already campaigning for a 'yes' vote for a draft constitution that was arrived at undemocratically. And they are probably doing this under pressure from the MDCs who keep arguing wrongly that the 2000 'no vote' was a mistake, yet it was a democratically arrived at verdict of the peoples wishes.

These colleagues in civil society and in the MDCs would be well advised that constitutions are not written merely for the removal of individuals from power, they are intended for holistic democratic governance. To want to mix up issues of how to get rid of Zanu Pf from power with the constitution making process even at this late stage, is to deliberately deceive the people of Zimbabwe.But then again, the whole COPAC process and the attendant civil society support for it, has been an exercise in elitist political deception.

Finally, I am aware that there is an assumption that it is the political principals that will be able to get Zimbabweans to vote yes to the draft and that anyone else campaigning for a 'no vote' will most certainly lose. This would be a fair analysis were it not for the fact that the people of Zimbabwe do not have a limited understanding of constitutional reform issues. And I am certain that even with all the cajoling and the politicized 'yes' vote campaigns that will follow, a significant number will register their displeasure with the great deception that has been COPAC.

*Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (