Surely we can do better than this?

The draft constitution that has finally been birthed - after an excruciating process of negotiation and compromise - is a poor specimen. People are already taking positions for and against. We publish in this issue a number of opinions, which we hope will generate informed debate. The problem is that, within the next few months, we will be asked to vote yes or no on this document. If Zanu (PF) has its way, we will have to vote for the Copac draft or a Zanu draft. If this is the case, we urge th

It provides for stronger institutions that will enable essential checks and balances, especially on the Executive. These institutions include a Parliament capacitated to force greater accountability on the part of the presidency, independent commissions and a national authority to coordinate prosecutions. It contains a mechanism specifically focusing on gender, with a view to bringing about social, economic and political equity. For the women, this will be in addition to provisions that will enable their increased participation and presence in the legislature. There is also a marked improvement regarding the contentious issue of citizenship – with the new charter bringing solace to hitherto ‘‘stateless citizens’’. Even war veterans have a reason to smile, as the new document directly recognises their contributions towards national independence and seeks to ensure that their welfare is safeguarded. However, the Copac draft contains serious flaws – notably that it enshrines racism. We are now officially a racist state where people of a certain colour will be discriminated against on the basis of their skin colour. In other words: reverse apartheid. This is, of course, unacceptable.

The removal of property rights constitutes another serious flaw. Under the Copac draft all those farmers who were dispossessed of their land, including blacks, during the land “resettlement” programme will have no recourse to law to seek compensation for or to get justice. This is an abrogation of a fundamental human right. We are convinced that the majority of decent Zimbabweans will find this clause offensive. In addition, the Copac draft does not sufficiently limit the powers of the president. All this puts us in a very difficult position. If we vote against the Copac draft we run the risk of Zanu (PF) claiming victory for their constitution. Analysts argue that if we reject it we run the risk of going back to the darkest days of Zanu (PF) dictatorship.

Those in favour of a “yes” vote argue that the Copac draft will lead to free and fair elections, and once a government that truly represents the people is in power, it can fix the areas of contention. But for many, this may be a leap of faith too far.

Post published in: Editor: Wilf Mbanga

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