People driven constitution a myth


HARARE – It is a historical fact the world over, constitutions are crafted by the most powerful elements in the society concerned.

Unfortunately, it is in Zimbabwe where the majority of us are embroiled in the myth of a people-driven constitution in its strictest sense.

The Copac process was designed by people who were too ambitious to the extent that they came up with an unfeasible overall objective — a constitution written by the people for themselves.
Copac’s concept of a people- driven constitution is but a fallacy.

This argument derives its basis partly from experiences of other countries especially long standing democracies and largely from the controversies surrounding the Copac process. The following points illustrate why the concept is a myth.

The concept of people-driven can mean different things to different people.

However, in policy and constitutional-making processes, people understood the concept from two main strands: the process itself and the content or nature of the outcome.

Article 6 of the GPA states that, “…it is the fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves and that the process of making the constitution must be owned and driven by the people and must be inclusive and democratic.”

This Article is the major source of the problem in that; it assumes that people will write the constitution by themselves as well as owning the process.

What has been done so far proves beyond any reasonable doubt that it is something unattainable especially considering the strong involvement of politicians in the process from the word go.

Notwithstanding the nexus between the process and outcome, it is not realistic to assume ordinary Zimbabweans will write their own constitution. To be realistic people should rather focus on the outcome and yearn for a new charter that guarantees their rights without the need to be involved in the crafting process.

The US experience with constitution-making shows that for a constitution to protect the will of the people it does not necessarily mean the people should write it themselves.

About 55 representatives from 12 of the 13 states wrote the constitution of the US. It is said that Rhodes Island declined to send anyone.

Therefore, it is not new that other stakeholders such as the National Constitutional Assembly are declining to partake in the current process in Zimbabwe.

This will then show that the view of an All-Stakeholders Conference is just but a myth. In terms of the actual drafting of the US constitution, historical records show the man who put his pen to the paper is Gouverneur Morris.

Morris’s work was more than secretarial in that he alone reduced the original 23 articles to seven.

An analysis of the Copac process indicates that the role of the people has been minimal.

Representatives of the major political parties namely Zanu PF, the mainstream MDC and the smaller MDC faction dominated the so-called First All-Stakeholders’ Conference.

Almost all thematic areas and talking points were imposed on the people with minor adjustments. Thus a constitution whether in a democracy, or any other form of government is a reflection of the interest of the strongest elements at a given time.

During the outreach phase, the most influential political parties devised strategies to advance and champion their views at the expense of what the inhabitants of a particular area were clamouring to realise.

The political environment under which the outreach process took place was so volatile to the extent that the general citizens were not free to air their views.

Political standoff largely characterised the whole process from the initial stages up to the drafting stage.

Progress could only follow the intervention and dictates of the GPA principals. Nothing was done or stalled because the so-called people wanted certain aspects to be considered or rejected.

It is imperative therefore, to note that Copac’s conceptualisation of the constitution-making process is fatally flawed.

This led to a false belief the general populace is supposed to write a constitution.

It is important in any programme for the government to come up with frameworks that are realistic and attainable.

It is possible that, an individual can design a constitution that protects the values, and aspirations of the people concerned. – Shakespear Hamauswa

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