Constitutional Amendment No. 18: Setting The Dinner Table Whilst The House Burns

On Friday the 8th of June 2007, the Government of Zimbabwe in an extra ordinary g

azette published Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment No.18 Bill. The Constitutional Bill will among other things seek to shorten the term of office of the President and make it run concurrently with Parliament.

Secondly, the Bill seeks to increase the number of members of the House of Assembly from the present 150 to 210. 200 of which will be directly elected and 10 of these will be Presidential appointees. In addition, it seeks to increase the composition of the Senate from 66 to 84 members, of those 84, 10 will be Provincial Governors, 16 Chiefs and 6 will be Presidential appointees.

Over and above this, the Bill seeks to create and establish a Human Rights Commission and also establish the office of the Deputy Chief Justice. A minor amendment is an alteration the Commissioner of Police and Ombudsman to that of Commissioner General of the Police and the Public Prosecutor respectively.

The Bill is being gazzeted in the background of an unprecedented economic meltdown that has seen nominal inflation rise to 4530% in the month of April 2007 with month on month inflation far exceeding 1000%. In the two weeks of June alone, the price of fuel has risen from Z$25000 to $100000 a liter and the Zimbabwean dollar has tumbled from one is to thirty five thousand to a hundred thousand against the US dollar on the parallel market. The same period has seen an unmitigated cutback on the supply of electricity and water to domestic household. The majority of Zimbabweans across the country have been plunged into seas of cruel cold darkness. The suffering of the Zimbabweans has no precedent, as a result, daily in every city, there are endless ques of Zimbabweans that snake around the offices of the Registrar General applying for emergency traveling documents.

In the same vein, there are thousands of Zimbabweans who are fleeing Zimbabwe daily and thousands being deported from neighboring countries. The South African Home Affairs office alone is deporting at least 300 Zimbabweans on a daily basis. Recently, I visited the Methodist Church Centre in Johannesburg where I witnessed hundreds of Zimbabweans living in squalor. These people rather live in those squalors than living in these harsh economic conditions being governed by a regime that does not have their genuine needs at heart.

Zimbabwean hospitals have become death zones with thousand dying as a result of the inadequate provision of drugs and lack of adequate care and attention as many hospital staff is either on strike or on go-slow. Official life expectancy has been reduced to 34 and official health figures are that 3000 Zimbabweans are dying because of hunger and diseases.

Given this background, it goes without saying that the priority of any government that genuinely has its people at heart and puts those people first, must be addressing those structural economic issues that have reduced Zimbabwe to a pariah State and made the average Zimbabwean the most impoverished person on earth, surviving on less than US 30c a day.

Constitutional Amendment No.18 regrettably is not about food, jobs or drugs, it is about power its maintenance, reproduction and reconsolidation by Zanu PF. The national project of Zanu PF is the power equation; it is not about the suffering of millions of Zimbabweans at home and abroad.

In our view, rearranging the dynamics of power in the State particularly within the context of acerbic and pervasive succession battle in Zanu PF is thoroughly grievous and lamentable. You cannot rearrange the deck of a sinking titanic. Besides, this country is tired of unilateral piece meal constitutional amendments. Having 18 Constitutional Amendments in under 27 years reflects great contempt to the sacrosanctity and universality of a National Constitution.

As far as we are concerned, Zimbabwe needs a new holistic Constitution that is people driven and people owned, without this there will be no solution to the burning national question of the day. We thus reject this Bill.

Over and above this, given that the issue of a new Constitution and its contents thereof, are some of the things that will be clearly be covered in the SADC negotiations currently underway, pursuant to the resolution of the SADC Heads of States in their meeting in Daresalam on 29 March 2007, Constitutional Amendment No.18 becomes both preemptive and contemptuous of that dialogue. The message that Zanu PF is sending out is loud and clear. It is oblivious and blind to the SADC negotiations. It is simply not ready for genuine dialogue

In that regard, its preparations for the 2008 elections are on auto-cruise despite and inspite of the SADC dialogue. However, we would like to remind Zanu Pf that this is an auto-cruise towards disaster as that will not redeem the country from this deep political economic and social abyss.

We on our part, remain committed fully to this dialogue and despite provocation and deligitimisation attempts by Zanu PF, we remain faithfully committed to that dialogue. We call on SADC to remain focused on the 29th of March 2007 resolution and to ensure that every party to the process remains committed and bonafide. The crisis in Zimbabwe requires a sober understanding and not political grandstanding or populist rhetoric. SADC must thus be vigilant and be wary of the machinations of the opponents of progress and the national cause

As far as we are concerned, Zanu PF might have a machinery of violence, but we have the people and the plan for a New Zimbabwe. With this plan and the people we will march together, as we did yesterday to a New Zimbabwe.

I thank you

Morgan Tsvangirai
[MDC President]

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