Let the people speak

The current exercise of gathering the views of Zimbabweans on a new constitution has been little short of a total disaster. It has been marred by incompetence, greed and state-sponsored violence. We have carried reports of how the dates and times of consultation meetings around the country have been changed at the last minute, resulting in confusion.

There have also been reports of armed soldiers cowing villagers into silence, or into supporting the Zanu (PF)-favoured Kariba Draft document. At times, hordes of Zanu (PF) militia have disrupted meetings in the presence of partisan police officers, who have stood by and watched from the sidelines making no effort to put a stop to it.

The CIO has also been very active, speaking on behalf of the locals in support of the Kariba Draft. Other reports have been published about villagers being followed home from meetings after speaking out, and being beaten up.

Therefore, what comes out of such an exercise cannot possibly be a reflection of the genuine views of the people of Zimbabwe. They have not been allowed to speak freely. Of course, this is part of Zanu (PF)s strategy to force the people to accept the Kariba Draft, or something close to it, knowing fully well that they will reject it in a referendum.

Such a rejection of a new constitution would suit Zanu (PF). They would simply say that the people have rejected a new constitution so we should go to the next elections on the basis of the much-amended and largely unrecognisable Lancaster House constitution. This, as we all know, has been amended to give Mugabe unbridled power and has removed the guarantees of basic human rights.

The chaos can be fixed but only if the principals to the GPA are serious about genuinely gathering the views of Zimbabweans. This newspaper alone has carried hundreds of comments and suggestions submitted by ordinary Zimbabweans about the constitution during the past few months. Several other bodies, notably WOZA, ZLHR, Zimcodd and ZimRights to name but a few – have conducted their own consultations.

Only Mugabe and his generals can stop the violence and intimidation. First they have to withdraw the army and the CIO, who are paid by the taxpayer, from the rural areas and returned to barracks. Paid state workers should not be unleashed on the population to force them to support the viewpoint of one particular party. The Zanu (PF) militia should also be removed from the villages. The police must do their job of maintaining law and order at the consultative gatherings.

It is simple just let the people speak.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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