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ZAPU takes a qualified stand on the draft constitution

by Strike Mkandla
12 February 2013 | 3528 Views
In the next few weeks Zimbabweans will be voting in a referendum on whether to accept or reject the draft of the new constitution adopted on 7th February 2013 by Parliament at the recommendation of the three signatory parties to the Global Political Agreement (GPA), namely Zanu-PF and the two formations in the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC and MDC-T).




Like many non-GPA political formations, civil society organizations and concerned members of the public, ZAPU has followed and sought ways to influence the constitutional process. However, the straightjacket of the GPA has allowed room for its signatories to collectively dictate the limits of change in constitutional reform. In particular, prior to the presentation of this draft drawn up by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution (COPAC), the final version was the result of massaging and horse-trading by the Principals or leaders of the three GPA parties. Consequently the draft adopted by Parliament simultaneously reflects both widening of democratic space and three-legged features dictated by self-interest, most exemplified by what has been dubbed "parked" provisions.

The most glaringly subjective provisions relate to the office of President and to some areas dealing with justice. The GPA signatories agreed to defer by ten years the implementation of a provision for presidential running mates and changing from the current practice of appointing two Vice-Presidents that date from 1987. Transitional justice was also sacrificed through the agreement to put in abeyance for seven years the Constitutional Court, while the Peace and Reconciliation Commission would be in place ten years from the inception of the new constitution, thus allowing those who would have to explain their misdemeanors to age or die. The agreed delay in separating the National Prosecuting Authority from the Attorney General's office is another limitation of the COPAC draft "breakthrough". ZAPU's reading of public opinion from the COPAC outreach process and the party's own take is that the draft is also deficient in leaving the possibility of dual citizenship to an Act of Parliament, whereas Zimbabwe's recent history of political exile and current economically induced migration have ensured significant numbers of descendants in the Diaspora who deserve dual citizenship as an entrenched right.

ZAPU has been steadfast in championing devolution of power as answer to excessive central power and tendencies to marginalize, by design or by default, areas that are far from Harare. The draft constitution stresses the "unitary" nature of the Zimbabwean state and almost equates devolution with sliding towards secession by prefacing the relevant chapter with "preservation of national unity and prevention of all forms of disunity and secessionism". This grudging introduction of devolution in the draft constitution is matched by the paltry allocation of revenue to the provincial and metropolitan governments such that "not less than five percent" of national revenue shall be shared among the ten units.

ZAPU is among the proponents of proportional representation because the system would ensure that parliamentary representation reflects the true strength of parties. In the COPAC draft the principle has been used for determining women's representation by 60 representatives covering all the provinces, and some of the Senators. This is a good beginning in itself but it needs to be applied across the board instead of the "first past the post" system for selecting Members of Parliament.

An important element in ensuring free and fair elections is the eventual independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) from the office of the Registrar-General. Indeed, the creation of independent Commissions in the draft can be the beginning of professionalism, accountability and impartiality in key sectors of governance and administration of justice. This is particularly so in respect of a non-partisan civil service, security services and the judiciary, among others.

In the political sphere, the overall tone of the draft's founding principles and values provides optimism for a rights-based approach to crafting of state institutions as need for further change becomes more manifest and generalized among progressive political parties. In this regard, on balance, the draft provides some ground, with clear limitations no doubt, on which to build progress on in the right direction away from the 1979 Lancaster House constitution that has allowed a marathon presidency and has nurtured an unfettered monolithic center to give and take rights and civil liberties at will. ZAPU's National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting on 9th February 2013, after consultations and internal debate, is advising members, supporters and all stakeholders to vote a qualified YES in the forthcoming referendum on the new constitution to hold the ground thus far won. As indicated above, many of our party's key expectations have not been met and we believe that goes for those of many stakeholders, but we firmly believe that in order not to start from the beginning in fighting for a truly people-centered constitution for Zimbabwe we should give this draft a qualified YES vote in the forthcoming referendum.

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Strike Mkandla - Alternate Secretary General, ZAPU, on behalf of the National Executive Committee

Zapu Constitution


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