Tuesday, 5 March 2013

The Dishonesty of the 'Yes' Campaign

By Takura Zhangazha*

In the last fortnight, there has been a somewhat muted launch of the ‘yes’ vote campaign for the COPAC draft constitution by the political parties in the inclusive government. One of the parties, the MDC T, sought to do so in grandiose fashion by holding a 'yes' campaign launch rally in Gweru last weekend. One can only assume that it was supposed to be  a massive rally which would show how much support they have and also indicate that they do not care about political principles or values, so long they have their supporters heeding their every word. As it turns out, the rally was neither as big nor as emphatic. Perhaps it was because of the rains that fell or perhaps it was because there is inadequate popular support for COPACs draft constitution, even if that party’s  leaders claim to have greater numbers at their beck and call.

The media has also been reporting that there has been low attendance to the meetings that have been called either by COPAC or other political parties in support of the draft. Some of the reasons given by the organisers of these meetings have been that there was not enough notice or alternatively there were not enough copies of the draft by the time the meetings began. In response, and again as reported in the media, citizens have definitively argued that there is too little time given for them to read and understand the draft or alternatively, if they are party supporters and activists, they just reply that they will follow the instructions of their political leaders. 

All of these developments indicate that there is some unfortunate political dishonesty going on over and about the ‘yes’ vote campaign. It is a dishonesty that has the immediate effect of exposing the flawed and evidently undemocratic nature of the process as well as indicative of the dictatorial and centralist politics that is now a shared characteristic of the parties in the inclusive government as well as those that are acting as their lackeys. It is also indicative of political leaders that are unfortunately caught up in the mistaken view that the people they lead are cattle to be herded in whatever direction the herdman/woman thinks and this, without their consent.

It would have been fair to assume that perhaps those campaigning for the yes vote understood the full import of the draft constitution they are proposing. Some of those who are at the helm of leading this yes campaign have neither read nor understood the document in question and are always caught out in media interviews or some civic society organized public meetings as being either ignorant of its contents or as being patently dishonest about its import. So even if one were to argue (in incremental fashion) that indeed the process was flawed, it would still be a herculean task to accept the argument based on content from people who either do not know the document’s contents or who are deliberately misrepresenting its articles.

Further dishonesty in the 'ye's campaign is found in the fact that some of its supporters have taken on a very personal approach to the matter. This includes wanting to be personally written in the annals of history as the progenitors of a new constitution for Zimbabwe. This would not be a problem were it not appearing to be done for mere personal recognition and not for democratic values or principles. And in this, there is the dishonesty of misrepresenting the facts of the draft constitution and positing of the argument that ‘any change is better’ without giving people adequate time to read and understand the document for themselves.

And this is coming from persons who were either leaders or direct participants to the 2000 rejection of the Chidyausiku Commissions draft constitution. A rejection which they wrongly refer to as having been a mistake and yet the true agenda was the articulation by the majority voters that they would really like to see a people driven draft constitution. By any democratic measure, the participants in the 'yes' campaign know full well that their process and document fails the ‘people driven’ test as articulated by the NationalConstitutional Assembly (NCA) and in the Zimbabwe Peoples Charter. It is no longer in any way a document for posterity but a document of their personal political moments which history will be wary to remember.

When taken into full account and from whatever angle one views it from, the current 'yes' vote campaign is an exercise in political dishonesty. This is initially and fundamentally  in relation to the process which was driven by political parties in the inclusive government without the democratic participation of other stakeholders.  And secondly in relation to the contents of the draft which do not signify any significant democratic shift from the politics that informed and informs the current constitution. Thirdly and finally, the dishonesty resides in the elitist and spoon-feeding paternalistic attitude that informs the conduct of the parties and persons campaigning for a 'yes' vote. They will not even allow adequate time for people to debate their flawed document, let alone either get a copy or read it, a process and campaign that can only be defined as a national travesty.
* Takura Zhangazha writes here in his personal capacity (takura-zhangazha.blogpost.com)