People final arbiters

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Either Zimbabweans are full of contradictions or they are being underestimated by the wonky Government of National Unity principals (GNU) – Zanu PF’s President Robert Mugabe and his counterparts MDC-T’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, Welshman Ncube’s MDC and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s MDC.

NewsDay Comment

The paradox is that the majority of Zimbabweans support the Copac-led constitution-making process while at the same time supporting the country’s main political parties — Zanu PF and the two MDCs. So either opinion polls are flat-out wrong and Zimbabweans are going to deal a decisive blow to end impunity by choosing the path of peace and prosperity and rising above inter-party politics or things remain much the same.

Events at last week’s Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference pointed to the horrors of Zimbabwe’s post-election violence of 2008. Episodes of inter/intra-party violence, killings, use of hate speech and pre-election tensions are mounting. Zanu PF succession fights have taken the better of the constitution-making process. These disturbances are a warning the country could descend into violence worse than the crisis around the disputed presidential runoff election in June 2008. So as Copac gears for the referendum and 2013 general elections, bitter lessons from Kenya which has gone through the process before show that constitution-making is an uphill task.

It is hoped that Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Ncube will put the country above their individual political ambitions and let Zimbabweans get on with the business of nation building. We believe Zimbabwe has a real problem if we do not handle the referendum and the next elections according to international standards. Yet disagreements in Copac might mean that the next election could be held using the current Lancaster House Constitution whereas constitutional reform is one of the conditions of the Global Political Agreement signed in September 2008 by Zanu PF, MDC and MDC-T.

Zimbabwe could have proved wrong pessimists who did not believe that its coalition government would survive. Nonetheless, the power-sharing arrangement has thrived, hence the constitution-making process has no reason to fail — if anything, it must succeed too.

These endless wars over the constitution between Mugabe and Tsvangirai must stop. Is it not curious that Mugabe or Zanu PF would want to veto the draft constitution even before the referendum? Why shouldn’t the President share power with Parliament?

We believe the GNU principals should now put the draft to the people to decide. If Zanu PF does not agree, then they should go out and campaign for a “No” vote. Mugabe, Tsvangirai, Ncube and/or Mutambara should not be allowed to decide on the fate of the new draft. Principals must not renegotiate the document as they do not have a veto on the constitution.

Instead, the people should be the final arbiters of the country’s basic law. That way the Copac process will culminate in a new governance charter without chaos or deadlock.

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