Kick and Hope?

When some civil society leaders raised concerns that the constitutional reform process would produce deadlock because the process was most likely to be the product of political bargaining, they were regarded as “spoilers”. RAU itself raised these concerns in its 2010 think piece, What are the options for Zimbabwe? Dealing with the obvious! Our view was that the crisis in Zimbabwe would only be solved by an election, and that there was unlikely to be little in the way of any reform on the way to the next election, including a new constitution. So the news over the weekend that ZANU PF remained with serious reservations about the draft constitution came as no surprise, and, from the newspaper reports, the issues of concern are not trivial detail. As the Sunday Mail reported yesterday, and ahead of yet further meetings to take place within the party:

Among the contested areas are national objectives and foundations; the significance of the liberation struggle; the appointment of provincial governors; the establishment of the constitutional court; the deployment of defence forces outside the country and the proposed restructuring of the Attorney-General’s Office. Debate on a section dealing with the nomination of presidential candidates and their running mates will also be concluded at the crucial meeting.”

The MDCs responses have been to tell the citizenry that all is well, and that we should vote in support of the draft, but even the few brief analyses of the draft suggest areas of concern. As Derek Matyszak pointed out in the Independent last week, the appointment of the heads of the security forces leaves much to be desired, and other are beginning to raise concerns. It is also telling that neither of the two parties endorsing the draft has undertaken broad consultations within their own parties yet.

With the June 2013 poll looming on the horizon, ZANU PF screaming for elections, and no real reform outside of the (still to be completed) constitutional process, opposition parties are behaving like football or rugby teams in the last 10 minutes of the match. Trailing in points, unable to break down the defense of their opponents, they resort to kicking the ball in the air and hoping that they will get a lucky break and hoping that the opposition will make a mistake.

There are no mistakes likely to happen here. As the critics of the constitutional process pointed out so long ago, the only constitution that will get ZANU PF’s support is one that they write themselves, that compromise has never and will never be a political strategy for ZANU PF, and most obviously, it will never be in ZANU PF’s interest to ever enter a genuinely competitive process, whether a referendum or an election.

But as we, and others have pointed out, until all the state institutions that remain under total control by ZANU PF are restored to full impartiality, not even the best constitution will guarantee decent elections or normal civilian life. Constitutions guarantee freedoms and good government when there is consensus about these in a nation, and we can now see, three years and millions of dollars later, that there is no consensus, so let’s just kick and hope, or maybe find a new coach!


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