The executive chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly Lovemore Madhuku this week said the powers of the President must be heavily trimmed in the new constitution which must also have provisions that force the government to listen to the people and be an accountable and responsive government.
Madhuku said inclusion of clauses that allow for an independent Judiciary and an effective Parliament were also necessary in the new charter.
He said a new constitution should also provide for a free and fair election to enable Zimbabweans to elect their leaders.
The following are excerpts of an interview NewsDay Senior Parliamentary Reporter Veneranda Langa (ND) had with Madhuku (LM) on the constitution-making process.
ND: Is it true that the NCA is campaigning for a ‘no’ vote ahead of the referendum on the new constitution.
LM: First and foremost, the NCA does not exist to campaign for a no or yes vote. We are not there to sit and wait for a referendum and then decide whether to campaign for a no or yes vote.
The purpose of the NCA is to spread civic education to Zimbabweans on the values and benefits of a democratic constitution.
This civic education involves explaining the nature of constitution-making particularly how people must be involved in the making of a good constitution. Its core is debating the content of a democtratic constitution.
There is no campaign for a “no” vote at the moment. We have criticised Copac and have refused to be part of it because it is leading a defective process.
We do not know whether Copac will be in a position to call for a referendum given its failure to make progress in the past two-and-half years. And as far as we are concerned, the referendum is not a foregone conclusion. It may not take place.
Our focus is on ensuring that Zimbabweans appreciate the values of a good constitution. So all our efforts are on increasing knowledge of the core content of a democratic constitution. We will soon be publishing “benchmarks” of a democratic constitution.
ND: If the Copac constitutional draft turns out to be a good document reflecting the will of Zimbabweans, will the NCA support it?
LM: We do not believe that Copac will ever produce a good document reflecting the will of Zimbabweans. The question whether or not the NCA will ever support such a document reflects a serious misunderstanding of the role of the NCA.
The Copac draft, if ever it gets produced, will be judged by Zimbabweans. The role of the NCA is to subject the Copac draft to an assessment based on the “benchmarks” of a democratic constitution.
ND: According to the NCA, what would really be a good constitutional draft that you can encourage Zimbabweans to vote ‘yes’ to during the referendum?
LM: The NCA has been in the game for the past 14 years. It has a wealth of inputs from all Zimbabweans on what they want in a new constitution.
In 2001, the NCA produced a draft constitution. If anyone reads that draft, they will get a clear picture of what constitutes a good constitution.
In summary there are four broad areas that the NCA considers important in a new constitution.
The first area is that we want an accountable and responsive government. The constitution must provide for a government with limited powers. It must have provisions which force the government to listen to the people.
The powers of the president must be heavily trimmed. There should be separation of powers, an independent judiciary and an effective Parliament.
The second area is the electoral system. A new constitution must provide for a free and fair election to enable Zimbabweans to elect leaders of their choice.
The constitution must ensure that ineffective governments are booted out of office. The electoral system itself must be fair to ensure that all political interests are represented.
A new constitution cannot avoid proportional representation. The constitution must provide for a truly independent Electoral Commission.
The third is the Bill of Rights. The current constitution has no adequate scope for the protection of fundamental rights.
A new constitution must provide for social and economic rights. The Bill of Rights must enable full political freedoms. All rights must be enforceable in the courts.
Finally there is the aspect of participation of citizens and the protection of democracy. There must be devolution of power and there must be strong institutions which protect democracy.
ND: You are an expert on constitutional matters. Has Copac ever sought any assistance or advice from you or the NCA to ensure they produce a credible document?
LM: No. Copac is not interested in any expertise. The mistake you are making is to believe that Copac is interested in writing a credible constitution.
ND:There are some critics who say civic organisations such as the NCA thrive on chaos. For instance, if there is continued lack of a credible constitution for Zimbabwe, then the NCA thrives. Is that true and what are your comments?
LM:I do not see how the NCA can thrive in such an environment. The NCA is a serious organisation which is striving to ensure that our country eventually has a new, democratic and people-driven constitution.
ND: What is the problem with having a constitution being crafted by politicians since Copac is a Parliamentary led constitution-making body?
LM: It is self evident why politicians must not be involved. They are self-serving crooks. Only an independent constitutional commission has the capacity to listen to all views.
ND: What can Zimbabwe learn from other countries on constitution-making processes?
LM: There is only one lesson: The constitution-making process must genuinely involve the people.