Be Our Guest-(22-02-07)

Welcome to our new question and answer column, Be Our Guest, with our Staff Reporter Gift Phiri (GP). To kick off the column is a candid interview with Dr. Lovemore Madhuku (LM), leader of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a coalition of civil society groups demanding constitutional ref

orm in Zimbabwe.
GP: Dr Madhuku, welcome to the inaugural Zimbabwe Interview. You are an outspoken critic of the Zimbabwe constitution. You have told us we need constitutional reform. What are these reforms?
LM: Well, I think what we need in terms of our constitution is to make it provide for the freedom of Zimbabweans to do a lot of things, to elect a government of their choice, to enjoy their human rights, to be able to do their work and to realize their full potential. That is not there in the current constitution. So we are looking at amendments to deal with the powers of the President, the powers of Parliament, how to make government accountable, to improve the human rights standards that are in the constitution, to provide for free and fair elections and so forth.
GP: You have organized several demos, you have been detained several times, your house was recently firebombed, and at one point you were threatened with death. Frankly, do you see President Mugabe capitulating to your demands?
LM: Yes, very much so I think eventually he will capitulate if there are enough people who keep giving pressure. Our problem has been that we have not been able to get the kind of numbers that will make him accept our demands.
GP: How exactly do you envisage these constitutional reforms taking place in practice?
LM: The current government must accept that there is need for reform. Then there has to be a discussion involving all stakeholders in an all-stakeholder constitutional commission that studies the existing drafts and consults the people to produce a draft constitution that can be debated and then taken to a referendum.
GP: Now President Mugabe wants to impose an extension of his rule through constitutional manipulation. Mugabe claims this is cost-effective, joint Presidential and Parliamentary election in 2010. Don’t you think this is a good idea considering that government is broke?
LM: Well, I think it depends on the processes. If it were the demand of the ordinary people, there would be nothing wrong with that. But here it is wrong in the sense that it is being imposed by the leaders. What we believe should happen is that Zimbabweans across the board must engage in a reform process.
GP: Do you think it is feasible to install a new constitution before March 2008 considering this is just 13 months away?
LM: It is very feasible. There is no doubt that the materials required to write a new constitution are there and if there is genuine commitment to have a new constitution before March 2008 we will get it. It might mean elections in May or June. As long as that delay is caused by the processes of bringing about a new constitution, it’s okay.
GP: The opposition is fragmented at the moment. Do you think people still look up to the opposition to redeem them from this quagmire and can the NCA go it alone?
LM: The NCA cannot go it alone…We need the support of all the groups. The opposition, although it is divided can still mobilise people if they focus on their programs. Their problem is that they are focusing on their personality differences instead of focusing on differences that may exist in terms of strategies.
GP: Why have we not seen one big demo encompassing all civic and opposition groups considering there is congruency in your demands? You all want a new constitution isn’t it, NCA, WOZA, Crisis, the two MDCs etc?
LM: I think the problem comes from the leadership of the various organisations. We still cannot come together to agree on an appropriate date and so on. So it is a leadership problem and it’s not the problem of the ordinary members.
GP: There have been executive allegations from President Mugabe himself that you, personally, you are organizing these demos to elicit donor funds. How do you respond?
LM: Donors don’t give money to people who demonstrate. Donors are not some fools somewhere there who are so stupid that they give money to demonstrators. The NCA is funded because of the clarity of its programme, which is to advocate for a new constitution.
GP: There have been suggestions from some quarters that probably you should seek political office. Do you see any role for yourself in politics?
LM: Well, I think the role I see for myself at the moment is to lead the processes of getting a new constitution. There is no such thing as political office if it is not within the context of real democracy. I would not seek political office in a situation where there is no new constitution on Zimbabwe.

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