Constitutional debate: which side should civil society take?

The draft constitution will soon be finalised. The state owned Sunday Mail has restarted the debate, on whether the constitution carries people’s views or not, accusing the drafters of ignoring ‘peoples views’ and copying and pasting the South African constitution into ours. This is Zanu (PF)’s line and is a precursor of what is to come from them.

Key issues for Zanu (PF) include protection of the land grab, denial of devolution, keeping two vice Presidents to keep their tribal balance of power and maintaining the extensive and unchecked power of the President. This issue resulted in the people voting No against in 2000 proposed constitution. There is no doubt that the new constitution will somewhat be agreed upon. The question is what will be sacrificed and will the new document make any meaningful sense to the citizens.

The undemocratic nature of our political system means civil society will not be part of the closed political horse-trading meetings. The final draft constitution will therefore be a negotiated document. The question for civil society is where to draw the line? Should they mobilise the people to reject this draft again, because it is not the best. Or should they support it as a transition document?

My take is that civil society and the people are caught between a rock and a hard place as a result of the monopolisation of key national processes by politicians. It is important for us all to realise that this proposed constitution remains a transition. There remain issues that will need to be addressed at a later stage when the people are truly free to write a people’s constitutional.

Civil society must make decisions on the historical moment of this document and how it can be used as part of moving towards a better future. They must insist and focus on key clauses that allow citizens to participate in elections, allow some space for media freedom and give some powers to parliament to stop the shenanigans of the Executive.

The debate is going to intensify in the next few weeks, and instead of confusion there is need for a united voice.

Post published in: News
  1. Peter Cameron
  2. Peter Cameron

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