13 March 2013

Guest Blog: Vote Yes To Your Own Deception

Today I have the pleasure of presenting a guest blogger to Echoes. Nkosinqobile Dube (Chris Nqo) is a Zimbabwean Law graduate and also the Editor in Chief of dECK Magazine in Bulawayo. Here he presents his views on the the Final Draft Constitution which will go to a referendum this Saturday in Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe has the distinction of being one of the most literate countries in Africa. Our education system is envied across the continent, our academics are amongst the best in the world and we have a fearless and brave leader in Robert Mugabe. I could go on.

Our President is a blessing and similarly a burden to a country he has led for just over three decades. He has dictated his views,policies and decisions to the collective psyche of Zimbabweans but not without valiant opposition locally and internationally.

In March 2013, Zimbabwe stands at a cross roads, faced with making a decision that will shape the future of Zimbabwe in a manner as yet unknown. This Saturday the 16th of March, close to 5 million Zimbabweans over the age of 18 will queue across the country to partake in a referendum to approve or reject the Draft Constitution.

As you may know,politics is a matter of life and possible death in Zimbabwe. However, faced with such a life changing decision for their country, it is concerningly telling how little information ordinary  Zimbabweans posses about the Draft Constitution. For all our high literacy and brilliant academics, very few Zimbabweans are adept and capable of explicitly understanding legal english. Add to that, the cunning and deceptive nature of Zimbabwe's political hyenas and you have the perfect blindside. Let's depart from the legal terminology and examine the background against which this Draft was written. COPAC dedicated time and resources to obtaining the input of Zimbabweans towards the Draft Constitution. The question that should occupy our minds is, how much of what the people said actually made it into the spirit and letter of the Draft Constitution?
What we know now is the sad fact that Zimbabweans views are not accurately represented. Devolution of power, executive Presidency, Seperation of Powers, Right to Life, Youth aspirations are some of the points raised during COPAC meetings that did not receive accurate translation to the Draft Constitution.

What in effect we have is a document that is the perfect hatchet job of the views of many Zimbaweans. In reference to devolution of power, it is a watered down version of what the people said they wanted. Section 88 pertains to Executive authority and clearly spells out that this Draft is a political compromise between strange bed fellows who seek to serve their narrow political and selfish interests. All this at the considerable expense of crafting a water tight constitution that is reflective of the peoples true will.
I believe the aim of a constitution is not to simply react to history. Zimbabwe does not have the best example of a leader. Our Presidents actions and inactions will never serve as a fitting template. However,for all his shortcomings, the man does not have to be the stencil upon which our constitution is written on. The Draft constitution has been peddled as a document that seeks to prevent another Robert Mugabe. That, in itself is a wrong premise for any constitution.

A constitution should be a fool proof mechanism that safeguards a country's future. Not a set of laws that attempts to retrospectively fix and right loopholes in history.

Zimbabwe was brought to its knees by an Executive Presidency, a compromised judiciary, a weak parliament, a discriminatory and unfair land reform, a culture of human rights abuse and a lack of respect for the rule of law. This was precipitated by an economic collapse and followed up by a compromise Government of National Unity that has left us with the apparition of a new era with this Draft Constitution. Our new constitution should have been cast in stone against the above ills. However, a careful layman's examination of this draft reveals glaring loopholes.

Zimbabwe's Draft Constitution is in no way a reflection of the views of the majority of Zimbabweans, they just do not know it yet.
The executive Presidency remains entrenched in law. A President can dissolve Parliament,has legal immunity, still appoints Judges, Ambassadors and an unlimited Cabinet of Ministers.

Popularly elected Parliament can be dissolved for a number of reasons, even if it were to pass a vote of no confidence in the President. Add to this the fact that citizens still do not have the power to recall members of Parliament, once you have elected them only death will do you apart. The compromised land reform cannot be redressed by the new constitution. Whilst the supremacy of the constitution is entrenched by Section 2, the constitution can still be ammended by selfish politicians in Parliament, without going to a popular referendum. Many Zimbabweans do not know of this, yet they are tasked with making a Yes or No vote. The establishment of a Constitutional Court is a progressive move, however, it is shrouded in a deceptive clause that brings it to actuality seven years after the next election. How many ordinary Zimbabweans know of this? The office of the President of Zimbabwe has been inextricably tied with the personality of the holder of the office in the mind of many Zimbabweans. This is a sad legacy, yet that is precisely the same anomaly that the drafters of this important document failed to see past. The constitution was drafted with Robert Mugabe in mind, not with the future of Zimbabwe occupying the drafters' national conscience.

We do not have to safeguard Zimbabwe against another Mugabe, we have to safeguard Zimbabwe with a constitution that cements checks and balances in a progressive democracy. Zimbabweans outrightly expressed their desire for devolution, this was altered to suit  political negotiators seated at an oak table.

Zimbabwe has an unequal and uneven distribution of wealth, opportunities and resources. Devolution would have aided in correcting this imbalance. Mutare should be able to develop from its own wealth, Victoria Falls should prosper because of its natuaral resources, Gogo Sebata should speak Sotho when she goes to the clinic for free health care at Gwanda Clinic, Takesure Choga should graduate at University with the assistance of student loans, Tete Agnes should be able to vote by postal ballot from Melbourne in Australia, that criminal Chidumo Jnr must value his right to life whilst enjoying the comfort of solitary confinement inside Chikurubi, former MP, Mr Mukwevho must be left to ponder his fall from grace after his parliamentary constituency recalls him from a Parliament seating in Gweru, ZBC TV must be able to screen live political debates without fear, favour or incessant power cuts from local power supply companies. The Auditor-general should order investigations into misappropriation of funds by Government departments. The Constitutional court must seat in Masvingo to decide the constitutionality of the President sending troops to aid a falling dictator.

Ask yourself the question how much of what is illustrated above will ever be possible in a Zimbabwe that votes Yes on Saturday 16 March 2013.
Young people's hopes for a future Zimbabwe are relegated to simple National Objectives, not enforceable by law or creating a legislative duty for the state.

The Draft constitution is a watered down version of the views of Zimbabweans. Politicians did not have the hindsight to include necessary checks and balances for a strong constitution safe from arbitrary abuse.
You want to know why politicians sat down and agreed to decieve Zimbabwe into voting Yes? They did so because they selfishly put the interests of their party above the interests of the country. Voting yes would be adding your  weight to your continued oppression by a system that only gives you perceived power by a ballot. A constitution should never be a compromise, it should reflect a country and its people's explicit expectations set in law. This Draft constitution is not that. Lancaster brought us an imperfect constitution. Every Zimbabwean knows that,however, the current constitution is a choice we can afford to live with. That is, until we vote for a leader who will truly and honestly allow Zimbabweans the chance at a new people driven constitution. The leader who will promise Zimbabwe a new constitution, driven by an independent commission is what this country deserves. This can only happen if Zimbabweans Vote No.

The politician who asks Zimbabweans to Vote Yes, is deceiving you into giving away your country's future for the illusion of a progressive constitution.

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1 comment:

  1. You could not have put it better. Why should it be a compromise when the people clearly stated what they want to be in the constitution?