Will constitutional disagreements bring enemies closer!
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Emerging dynamics: MDCs Unite
One of the interesting dynamics that is promising to emerge in the referendum is the possibility that former enemies will be on the same side when it comes to voting. The MDC and MDC T are not necessarily friends but on this one they have both endorsed the final draft. Matters of running mates and devolution of powers are still a problem for both parties but it is expected that they won't change the final draft. Also, the divisions in the MDCs are not as life threatening as those in ZANU PF which is said to be divided in three camps: one against the draft, another defending it which includes the negotiators and a third which is neutral or noncommittal. As a result, ZANU PF is pushing for changes that will introduce new issues and for the restoration of presidential powers have been diluted.
Emerging dynamics: Voting with ZANU PF
To throw spanners in the works, certain non-governmental organisations, some of which were once linked to political parties, are said to be lobbying for a No Vote. Groups that have criticised the process argue that it was not inclusive and inherently flawed. They allege that ZANU PF and the two MDCs wasted US$45 million on an outreach programme only to negotiate the document and plagiarise the rejected 2000 draft, Kariba draft and the current Constitution, among others. It will be interesting to see what evidence they have to support these allegations. As things stand, ZANU PF and these sections of the civic society are finding themselves on the same side of the coin, lobbying for a no vote to the draft. Their arrangement promises to be similar to that of the UK referendum of 5 May 2011 where a majority of Labour party supporters defied their party position of voting Yes to the Alternative Vote system, instead choosing to align themselves with the Conservative party that won a No vote.
What does this mean?
If all goes according to the GPA letter, Zimbabwe, sooner or later will go through a referendum to decide whether people accept or reject the draft Constitution. This referendum may serve as a platform for new future coalitions in Zimbabwe politics. In the UK referendum, the organisations and political parties that were campaigning for the Yes vote agreed to set up a central campaign command centre that coordinated national activities. This meant that people who belonged to different parties were put together under one roof to make things happen. In order to increase chances of winning, the MDCs might have to do the same and so will ZANU PF and NGOs opposed to the draft. Could we really see Dr Lovemore Madhuku sharing an office with Professor Jonathan Moyo in their spirited campaign against the draft?
For me, what is important now is whether people will be given a chance to reject or accept the draft without any disturbances. The critical question now remains about the campaigning and information environment: Whether there will be campaigning and information restrictions, or efforts to coordinate argumentation? To me it is critical that the deliberative environment be free for everyone who wants to participate in this process and that entails a lot of other things like allowing the media to do impartial reporting on matters of concern. The referendum will be a test for Zimbabwe's fragile efforts to promote democracy. It is time now to allow people to have a say. The battle lines have been drawn.
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