ZIMBABWEANS go to a referendum tomorrow to accept or reject a Copac draft constitution as part of fulfilling the September 2008 Global Political Agreement that ushered in the inclusive government.
REPORT BY VENERANDA LANGA
NewsDay senior parliamentary reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) this week spoke to National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairperson Lovemore Madhuku (LM), whose organisation is campaigning for the rejection of the draft charter. Below are the excerpts of the interview:
ND: From the NCA standpoint, why should Zimbabweans vote “No” for the draft constitution?
LM: This is not a democratic and people-driven constitution. A democratic constitution must be people-driven. This is a constitution being imposed on us by three political parties, yet the people are bigger than these parties. No political party or group of political parties must be allowed to give the country a constitution. A constitution must come from the people.
The people of Zimbabwe should vote “No” because the process has not been driven by their collective wants and aspirations, but it was politically driven. The outreach programmes were marred by political coaching of participants along the lines of the three political parties constituting the government of national unity. There were serious cases of violence during the meetings, one case resulted in the death of a participant at Mai Musodzi Hall in Mbare.
The process itself was conducted under the same conditions of repressive laws such as Public Order and Security Act, etc, thus discouraging open discourse among the people of Zimbabwe.
All this serves to prove the fact that the process was not driven by the people of Zimbabwe, but the political leaders themselves. Outside the contents of the draft, the politicians have given the people just three weeks to access the documents and as the NCA, we believe that such a period can never be enough for the people of Zimbabwe, hence our appeal to the courts to have the dates of the referendum postponed in order to allow the people enough time.
In the same vein, the NCA condemns with contempt the fact that only 90 000 copies have been printed for the whole of Zimbabwe’s 12 million population. We are convinced that this is a strategy to make sure Zimbabweans vote without understanding the document.
ND: What exactly are you fighting against in the Copac draft constitution? Could it be that you were excluded in the constitution-making process. Did you perhaps you want the process to be co-owned together with your NCA?
LM: The NCA has traditionally called for a genuine people-driven constitution. That is the course we have maintained, that is what we have always believed in.
ND: What is the ideal constitution-making process Zimbabwe should embrace?
LM: We believe an ideal constitutional reform process that should produce a new constitution of Zimbabwe people-driven, participatory process and must in it guarantee:
lThat the Republic of Zimbabwe shall be a democracy with separation of powers, a justiciable Bill of Rights that recognises civil, political, social, economic, cultural and environmental rights;
- lDevolution of government authority to provinces and to local government level;
- lA multi-party system of democratic government based on universal suffrage and regular free and fair elections, and the right to recall public officials;
- lThe right to citizenship for any person born in Zimbabwe birth certificates, national identity documents and passports shall be easily available for all citizens;
- lA credible and fair election management body and process;
- lAn independent, impartial and competent judiciary;
- lThe protection of labour rights and the right to informal trade;
- lThe protection and promotion of the rights of people living with disabilities;
- lIndependent and impartial commissions which deal with gender equality, land, elections, human rights and social justice;
- lAn impartial State security apparatus;
- The People shall have a constitutional reform process, which is characterised by the following: —
- lComprehensive consultation with the people of Zimbabwe wherein they are guaranteed freedom of expression and information, association and assembly;
- lThe collection of the views of the people and their compilation into a draft constitution that shall be undertaken by an All-Stakeholders’ Commission composed of representatives of government, Parliament, political parties, civil society, labour, business and the church with a gender and minority balance.
- lA transparent process of the appointment of the All-Stakeholders’ Commission members as well as their terms of reference;
- lThe holding of a national referendum on any draft constitution.
The people of Zimbabwe must embrace it because it (the constitution) is their views not the views of the political elites.
ND: Does the Copac draft have any views that you might say advance or entrench democracy? Any examples?
LM: We believe in evaluating the constitution in totality and not in sections, as such we dismiss the draft with all its aspects.
ND: Has the NCA done its homework so as to ensure Zimbabweans support their “No” vote? Are you confident of getting enough support?
LM: The NCA is a grassroots organisation with structures across the country. Our members are doing their best to mobilise Zimbabweans to reject the Copac fraud.
17 reasons why NCA rejects draft
The draft constitution leaves all power in the president, who is allowed to do what he/she wants.
1. The NCA strongly objects to the powers of the President. Here are the powers of the President.
- lThe President is head of State, head of government and commander-in-chief (Section 89).
- lThe powers of the President as head of State are unlimited (Section 110(1).
- l The President appoints all ministers and deputy ministers on his/her own without the approval of Parliament (Section 104).
- lThere is no maximum limit on the number of ministers and deputy ministers. It is up to the President (Section 104).
- lThe President alone constitutes the Cabinet (Section 105). The statement in the draft constitution saying the President exercises Executive authority “through
Cabinet” has no value because the Cabinet is the President`s baby. All Cabinet ministers are hired and fired by the President at his/her pleasure.
- lThe President is allowed to appoint up to five Ministers from outside Parliament. This is bringing back appointed non-constituency MPs (Section 104(3)).
- lThe President appoints all ambassadors without consulting anybody (Section 204).
- lThe President has the final say over the appointment of all permanent secretaries (Section 205).
- l The President appoints all security chiefs (army commanders, commissioner of police, director of CIO etc). In making these appointments, all the President is required to do is to consult one of his/her ministers (Chapter 11).
- lThe President has the final say over the appointment of all judges (Section 180). Although there is provision for interviews, the President has power to refuse to appoint any of those recommended and order the Judicial Service Commission to start afresh.
- lThe President alone appoints the Attorney-General (Section 114) and may fire him/her at any time (Section 115).
- lThe President has the final say over the appointment of the Prosecutor-General (Section 259).
- l The President has the final say over the appointment of all Commissions including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Chapter 12).
- lThe President approves salaries, allowances and benefits for all civil servants from the lowest to the highest worker (Section 203 (4)). The President still has this power after appointing a Minister for the Public Service and the Civil Service Commission.
- lThe President has power to dissolve Parliament if it refuses to pass his/her government`s budget (Section 143 (3)).
- lThe President also has power to dissolve Parliament if it passes a vote-of-no-confidence in his/her government (Section 109 (4)).
- lThe Constitution does not impose a duty on the President to answer questions in Parliament. It leaves this to be decided by a future Parliament so that the political party controlling Parliament will shield the President from answering questions (Section 140(3)).
- lThe President has unlimited immunity while in office and is allowed to plead “good faith” after leaving office (Section 98).
- lThe President has power to declare war. The role of Parliament in this regard is useless (Section 111).
- lThe President has power to pardon his/her political allies (Section 112).
- lThe President has power to declare a state of emergency (Section 113).
- lA person who has left office as President will receive a monthly salary (called a pension) equal to the salary of the sitting President (Section 102(3)). This is for life.
- 2. There are two Vice-Presidents (Section 92). We no longer need two Vice-Presidents in a new constitution. Further, a person who has left office as Vice-President will continue to receive, for the rest of his/her life, a monthly salary (called a pension) equal to the salary of a sitting Vice-President (Section 102 (3)).
- 3. The size of Parliament has been increased to a total of 350 MPs (270 National Assembly and 80 Senators), (Section 120 and 124). The number increases to 355MPs with five ministers appointed by the President. We have no resources for such a huge legislature. In 1980 there were 140 MPs, in 1990 we had 150, in 2005 the number went up to 216 and in 2008 it became 303.
- 4. The increase in the size of Parliament is coming from an additional 60 seats for women. For a woman to qualify for any of these seats, she has to be a member of a political party. There are no direct elections for the seats. The quota for female MPs should be taken out of the existing number of MPs without increasing the size of Parliament.
- 5. Despite its huge size, Parliament remains very weak. It is just a talk shop. So why increase the number of MPs to join a talk shop. The political parties are just creating employment for their supporters at the expense of the people.
- 6. There are no term limits for Members of Parliament.
- 7. Except for the chapters on the Bill of Rights (Chapter 4) and Land (Chapter 16), this constitution can be amended by Parliament without a referendum (Section 328). This means that all provisions, including those on term limits, will be amended by future Parliaments, thus maintaining the current problem where the constitution has been amended several times.
- 8. For the next 10 years, if the President resigns or dies, there are no by-elections for the President. The country is given a President by the political party of the former President, yet people elect a person and not a political party as President (See Paragraph 14, Schedule 6). This means that if there are internal fights in the political party concerned, the country will have to go without a President until the political party sorts itself out. Is this not making political parties more important than the country? The issue of running mates, which will apply after 10 years did not come from the people.
- 9. There is no devolution at all. There are very weak Provincial Councils composed of the same people who are in Parliament. MPs will have two jobs: the province and Parliament. The provincial Councils do not govern anything in the Province (Chapter 14).
- 10. There is no provision compelling the State to allocate a specified minimum percentage of the nation’s revenue to deal with the needs of the poor. A people-driven constitution will allocate specific funding for food, health, education and water.
- 11. Most rights in the Bill of Rights are listed for decoration as there is no mechanism for their realisation.
- 12. For workers, the right to strike is very restricted and will not be available, while government workers will continue to be subject to conditions of work different from those of other workers, such as with collective bargaining.
- 13. There is no right to vote for Zimbabweans in the Diaspora.
- 14. The Zimbabwe Media Commission established by the constitution (Section 248) will be an instrument used by the state to undermine freedom of expression.
- 15. The winner-take-all electoral system is still intact despite the demand by the people for a mixed electoral system, allowing proportional representation for half the MPs.
- 16. The death penalty does not apply to all female murderers and males above 70 years. This is undesirable. If the death penalty is retained, it must not be applied in this discriminatory way (Section 48).
- 17. There are provisions which will apply after several years ranging from seven to 17 years. Why have them in the constitution now? The idea is to have a constitution which will not affect the political leaders promoting this constitution. Some provisions will disappear after 10 years.