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Zimbabwe: The Constitution-Making Process in Zimbabwe

Zimbabweans are currently participating in a constitution-making process. The government and Non-Governmental Organisations are carrying out outreach programs to gather public views on the New Zimbabwe Constitution.

The proposed draft of the new constitution will be put to a nationwide referendum. This will be Zimbabwe's second constitution. A proposed new constitution to replace the Lancaster House Agreement of 1979 was approved by the Parliament in 1999, but was defeated in the 2000 referendum.

Sokwanele is a civic organisation campaigning for freedom and democracy in Zimbabwe. The organisation has an online constitution resource and survey.

The purpose of the online constitution resource is:

Sokwanele's constitution resource is designed to make it easier for Zimbabweans, and friends of Zimbabwe, to compare different thinking on critical constitutional issues. We encourage you to ‘rate the law’ by awarding stars, and to leave comments and ask questions.

Sokwanele's online constitution survey will enable Zimbabweans living abroad to participate in the constitution-making process:

Sokwanele is today launching an online Constitution survey that aims to gather views from Zimbabweans everywhere, including the millions of Zimbabweans who live in the Diaspora and who have been largely excluded from the constitution-making process. The survey can be found at this link here.

Please help us to spread the word about the availability of the constitution survey either by forwarding this mailing, or by sending this e-card to everyone you know.

Amy Saunderson-Meyer reflects on lessons that Zimbabweans can learn from Kenya's constitution referendum:

I could not help but compare coverage of the Kenyan referendum to the Zimbabwean constitution-making process and reflect on what we can learn from Kenya. Although the countries’ circumstances are not totally comparable, we certainly can’t afford to let the Zimbabwean constitution-making process drag on for 20 years, as it did in Kenya!

The first factor that looms large is the fundamental role that a vigilant civil society plays in provoking public participation and debate, promoting state transparency and accountability, maintaining pressure and ultimately achieving change. A recent blog post on Pambazuka discusses the pivotal contributions that organizations such as the Association of Professional Societies in East Africa, Kenya Land Alliance, Kikuyus for Change and Kenyan Asian Forum made during the Kenyan constitution-making process.

The role of a vibrant media:

The second factor is the role that a vibrant media has in driving reform. According to an opinion piece in the Washington Times, both civil society and the media have played a part in the constitution-making process in Kenya and will continue to do so.

“Kenya is blessed with free and vibrant media and a vigilant civil society that relentlessly shines light into all corners of government activity,” it read. “This will heighten scrutiny in the use of public finances and resources by the executive and legislature.”

Her conclusion:

A vigilant civil society, vibrant media and new media tools have played a pivotal role in Kenya’s constitution-making process. We must not underestimate the value of these organizations and tools during our process in Zimbabwe as we continue to strive towards the formation of a new constitution and a more democratic nation.

Talk Constitution's report from community Voice Up constitution outreach meeting:

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition held a community outreach meeting under the Voice Up constitutional campaign in Mudzi on the 3rd of September 2010 which was attended by 43 people (26 male and 17 female). The campaign is aimed at providing civic education to communities on the constitutional reform process and enhancing citizen participation in the process. The meeting was addressed by Mr. Carter Muchada from the Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA) who spoke on socio-economic rights and systems of government and Ms. Maria Mache from the Crisis Coalition Secretariat who spoke on women’s issues in the constitution and the importance of citizen participation.
The following issues were raised by members of the Mudzi community;
1. There are allegedly high levels of coaching and intimidation of citizens by ZANU PF in the area. It was reported that villagers were divided into 17 groups based on the thematic areas and furnished with answers to different talking points by leaders of the political party in Mudzi district. It was further alleged that every Thursday, meetings are convened where villagers are threatened with unspecified action if they fail to give ‘appropriate’ responses.
2. COPAC should put in place measures to protect those who contribute during the outreach meetings as most people fear for their lives.
3. The videos and voice recorders used during meetings should not be used to instigate violence after the outreach phase of the constitution making process.

President Robert Mugabe has threatened to back the “No Vote” during the referendum:

ZIMBABWE’S fraught constitutional reform exercise has been thrown into further confusion after President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party threatened to back the ‘No Vote’ during the referendum for its adoption.

A parliamentary committee is currently spearheading the gathering of public views on the new charter which, once drafted, is expected to be put to a public vote leading to general elections for a substantive government.

However, the MDC party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has already said it will not endorse the constitution if the final draft does not reflect the “will of the people”.

Lloyd Msipa defends the death penalty the new constitution:

One of the fundamental issues that has raised sentiment amongst Zimbabweans at home and abroad has been the issue of the death penalty. The death penalty consists of legally putting a convicted felon to death for a prescribed offence. Under our current Zimbabwe Lancaster house constitution, two offences immediately come to mind that attract the death penalty. Notably unmitigated first degree murder and high treason. Those calling for the abolition of the death penalty in Zimbabwe have sighted reason ranging from the barbaric nature of the act of putting another human being to death and that the process of putting somebody to death maybe riddled with loopholes as in some instances the actual perpetrator of the crime goes free whilst an innocent person is put to death. Valid arguments one might say, but are they sufficient in the context of our situation as Zimbabweans.

The death penalty put into context has been used since time immemorial. In the holy bible, the death penalty was used for crimes ranging from murder, witchcraft and kidnapping. The United Sates of America, China and a myriad of African countries including Zimbabwe still use the death penalty. In the United States half of all death penalties are carried out in the state of Texas. The electric chair or lethal injection is used following long periods of incarceration of convicted felons, the infamous “death row”. In China the death sentence has been used more frequently recently for drug trafficking offences. In fact a few of our Zimbabwean nationals have been caught in this net.

In Zimbabwe we have tended to use the death penalty to remove the worst criminals from society making our country safer for those who live within the confines of the law. It is an acceptable truth that a dead criminal can not commit further murders. Those who are calling for the abolition of the death penalty need to realise that taking another persons life is no small matter.
In Zimbabwe the death sentence has been used sparingly. High Court records show the number on death row totals 47. A person convicted and sentenced to death in Zimbabwe gets an automatic appeal to the Supreme Court. This gives the accused person(s) any opportunity to introduce evidence that may have been either overlooked or not considered in the court of first instance.

He also looks at the issue of land ownership in the new constitution:

Post-independence, where it was clear that the economy of Zimbabwe was largely agricultural based, 70% of all the arable land continued to be owned and controlled by a mere five thousand white commercial farmers. Now the prevailing situation of a legal tug of war between Zimbabwe’s former white farmers and the Zimbabwe government, in relation to the legality of the SADC Tribunal, is a result of this ongoing conflict over the land issue.

It is in this respect that the methodology used to determine ownership of land in Zimbabwe needs to be inputted into our supreme law — the Constitution of Zimbabwe. The challenge and question that comes to mind is how we will write this into the constitution equitably without further alienating other citizens who are “citizens by colonisation”.

In all fairness, the indigenous black Zimbabwean population represents at least eighty percent of the population of Zimbabwe. In this regard, a constitutional provision on land ownership reflecting this demographic reality needs to be put in place, and has to ensure that land is continually and fairly accessible to all indigenous Zimbabweans and held in trust for future generations.

A Kubatana subscriber says the constitution-making process is flawed:

A subscriber sent us these important questions about the Constitution making process currently underway in Zimbabwe.

* Zimbabwe is writing a new people driven constitution. Of fundamental importance is the outcome. Indeed meetings are convened and several irregularities have been recorded. In Masvingo province, for instance, the so called war veteran (Jabulani Sibanda) had intimidated the en masse. How indigenous and people driven is this document going to be under those circumstances? Is this programme going to reflect the needs and aspirations of the populace? Is this not going to be Zanufied?
* Is this not going to be a negation of the negation?
* WHAT WILL BE THE OUTCOME GIVEN THE ENVIRONMENT UNDER WHICH THE PROCESS IS BEING EMBARKED?

Here is a link to index of articles related to the new constitution on Kubatana website.

There is a Facebook group called Zimbabwe Constitution whose aim is “to facilitate discussions on the constitution that the people of Zimbabwe desires.”

One of the topics on this page deals with issues to be addressed by the New Zimbabwe Constitution.
Peter Chinamora's comments:

There should be an age limit for those eligible for election and a lot has to be done on fundamental human freedoms. The seperation of the judiciary from the executive and a clear deliniation of party politics and national affairs.

Gertrude Mbidzo:

Term of office as president shd be indicatedd in the constitution to ensure that no conflict bt indiv shd know wn term office expires

The new constitution should not allow homosexuality:

Leviticus 18:22 – “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.” (NIV) Leviticus 20:13 – “If a man lies with a man as one lies with a woman, both of them have done what is detestable. They must be put to death…

Mhurai Chase:

DIASPORA PEOPLE MUST BE ALLOWED TO VOTE EVEN IN THE COUNTRIES THEY RESIDE IN. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG IN THAT. FOREIGN COUNTRIES ARE MORE ORGANISED IN ELECTIONS THAN US

Zimbabwe's Constitution Select Committee on the New Constitution (COPAC) has a video channel on YouTube.

1 comment

  • Sam

    I wonder whether the Mugabe will accept the results of the referendum if it doesn’t go according to his plan.

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