Reflecting on Zimbabwe's constitution-making process

"A constitution is not the act of a government, but of a people constituting a government" - Thomas Paine

"The Constitution, like the Bible, has some good words. It is also, like the Bible, easily manipulated, distorted, ignored and used to make us feel comfortable and protected. But we risk the loss of our lives and liberties if we depend on a mere document to defend them. A constitution is a fine adornment for a democratic society, but it is no substitute for the energy, boldness and concerted action of the citizens." – Howard Zinn

After the violence, and political struggle of the last decade, and thirty years of one-party rule, Zimbabwe has embraced coalition government and the multi-party sharing of power. Establishing the conditions for the sharing of that power, the Global Political Agreement (GPA) was fostered by the 'quiet diplomacy' of former South African President Thabo Mbeki and the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Since the adoption of the GPA, and as it dictated, Zimbabwe has undergone a participatory constitution-making process the culmination of which is a new draft constitution for its people to adopt or reject by referendum, lead by the Constitutional Parliamentary Select Committee (COPAC).

The following report will provide an outline of this process, the constitutional inheritance against which it was undertaken, and the successes, failures, and prospects of participatory constitution-making in Zimbabwe. We will briefly examine some general issues of constitutional law and theory prominent in discussion of Zimbabwe's constitutional change, alongside key historical and legal issues that provide the backdrop for this change. We will then cover the constitutional drafts available to Zimbabwe in recent years and their backgrounds, and finally the workings of the process itself.

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