We must not be blackmailed

David Coltart says that the land provisions in the draft constitution are “racially discriminatory and should never be in any modern democratic constitution.” He also said that even worse than these land provisions was that “far too much power is still vested in the executive.” In other words, the constitution abrogates fundamental human rights and does not contain the necessary checks and balances to constrain Presidential powers. Yet, Coltart argues that we cannot &ldqu


The first is that human rights and the separation of powers, amongst others, are not minor elements but the core pillars upon which a democratic constitution stands or falls. Remove one of those pillars and the whole edifice crumbles. Equally worrying, is that the constitution specifically contradicts the rulings of the SADC Tribunal which were based on international customary law and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. As Zanu (PF) systematically discredited and dismantled the Tribunal, the MDC did nothing but maintain a shameful silence. Now Coltart is asking the people to do that same: turn a blind eye to grievous flaws in the draft constitution.

The second argument is if we do not accept this deeply flawed document we will play into the hands of Zanu (PF) hardliners. But, hold on a minute … are the people of Zimbabwe being asked to judge the draft constitution on its own merits or to make a political decision? Just because Jonathan Moyo is rejecting it for political reasons, do the people of Zimbabwe also have to accept it for political reasons? The MDC has already played into the hands of the hardliners by capitulating on human rights, executive powers, and the question of justice. Coltart believes the draft constitution will lead to more accountability, more democracy, and the loss of power by hardliners. But if Mugabe blatantly disregarded the last constitution, why should he abide by the new one? By what constitutional authority, for example, does the President instruct the police to defy court orders and ignore their constitutional duty to protect the people from atrocities committed by his party supporters? The truth of the matter is that they subverted the old constitution and then inserted the offending clauses in the new draft constitution.

Zimbabweans should reject the argument that “we just do not have any other option” – that unless we, like the MDC, compromise with a regime that has brought nothing but poverty, humiliation and misery – and which created a Diaspora that has conveniently been denied the vote – matters will only get worse. The MDC won elections and ceded power because ‘they had no other option’; they legitimised the seizure of farms based on race because ‘they had no other option’. When Mugabe refused on budge on any GPA reforms, they joined him by calling for the removal of sanctions because ‘they had no other option’.

But now, we the people do have an option to decide upon whether or not to adopt the draft constitution. We must deliberate and discuss the merits and flaws of the draft constitution rigorously and openly. We must decide whether any president should be trusted with such sweeping constitutional powers. If necessary, we should sink this rickety and leaky ferry and start afresh with a sturdy and seaworthy vessel of state that can confidently withstand the constitutional gales and storms that lie ahead. But we must not be blackmailed into accepting the unacceptable.

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