Zanu PF, MDCs in yes vote


HARARE – Zimbabwe’s three ruling parties are rolling out rallies ahead of a referendum on a draft constitution, all campaigning for a “yes” vote.

The agreement by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF — whose 2008 election win was disputed — Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC, Arthur Mutambara and Welshman Ncube’s parties follows gradual rapprochement between the three ruling parties, which gave rise to a densely written document that will now be transmitted to a 210-member constituent assembly for rubber-stamping.

Critics say the draft document has deviated from what the people said in four-month long nationwide public hearings in 2010 and has been crafted to suit the agendas of the ruling parties.

Mugabe won a risky gamble by hijacking the Constitution from Parliament and managing to win consensus from his arch-rivals to railroad key changes that he has staked his own future and the reputation of his party on.

After usurping Parliament’s mandate to draft the new Constitution, it is already clear that the charter will pass.

A closer look at the draft Constitution shows it was a triumph for Mugabe.

True, the new Constitution whittles down his presidential powers significantly, but defers key changes for five to 10 years after the adoption of the new charter.

The Zanu PF Politburo on Wednesday spoke confidently of getting a good vote, dismissing critics as a thin cocktail of civil society activists and out-of-touch elitists.

The Constitution is seen as an endorsement for a constitution promoted as the MDC’s crowning achievement and as a blueprint for the country’s future.

But most civil liberties envisaged in the new draft have been deferred ostensibly as a compromise to drive the process forward.

Critics say it is one of the failed promises by the ruling MDCs, including a promise for effective government, an expanding economy and a progressive constitution, arrived at by consensus, that addressed the concerns of all.

Instead, Zimbabweans now complain of a stalled economy, erratic government and deterioration in already crumbling public services.

Opposition parties have also been offended by the move to exclude them.

Opposition leader, Simba Makoni told a news conference on Wednesday he was miffed the principals colluded to hijack the draft and then rushed out its draft, including last-minute sweetener clauses to appease the ruling elite.

“We are also appalled by the cowardice and pliancy of Copac and the whole Parliament, in abdicating from their responsibility to produce a draft constitution, and put it to the people of Zimbabwe,” Makoni said, urging parties to immediately put the constitution to a snap referendum, amid stinging criticisms of the draft by, among others, prominent pro-democracy group National Constitution Assembly – which is already campaigning for a ‘no’ vote.

The Zimbabwean people will have little time to debate the document, which is due to be put to a referendum in March, according to Tsvangirai.

Parliament will be whipped into line and not allowed to bargain for the constitution’s most disputed articles to be revised.

In the wake of all this, Zimbabwe has settled into an uneasy calm.

Phillan Zamchiya, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition regional coordinator called on ruling parties in Zimbabwe to go beyond the establishment of constitutional and electoral frameworks, what he termed “building the hard-ware of democracy” and democratise the entire political system and inculcate a culture to respect the rule of law, what he termed “building the soft-ware of democracy.”

“This has to be done through stopping the harassment and incarceration of civil society leaders, allow media to operate freely and independently and not least innovativeness in the stabilisation and revival of the economy to sustain our democracy,” he said.

Should all go well enough and a fresh, free and fair general election be held as promised in June after all reforms have been completed, they may at last give Zimbabweans pride in their unity.

A new Zimbabwe constitution is seen as a major milestone following the disputed 2008 election and the forthcoming referendum is not just a vote on a few obscure clauses but about the future direction of the Zimbabwe. – Gift Phiri, Political Editor

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