Reports that most Zimbabweans have no idea what they are being asked to vote for in today’s referendum are disturbing. The enormity of this matter cannot be downplayed and the fact that there is nothing that can be done now about it is tragic.
The constitution that the people of this country have been asked to assent to with a “Yes” vote today will be around to govern them for many generations to come, which is why it is critical that people are given an opportunity to understand it before they can make a choice on whether or not to vote for it.
It was, therefore, essential to educate and sensitise people about the contents of the constitution before the referendum so that they would be able to vote from a point of knowledge rather than ignorance. But alas, Zimbabweans have not been given the opportunity to understand this proposed constitution.
The dangers of rushing people into endorsing such an important document is that they will not embrace it as their own brainchild and consequently may not respect or safeguard it. The truth about this constitution that the people are voting on today is that the majority of Zimbabweans either had access to the document but had no time to read it, or did not get the document at all. Many more do not even have an idea what the voting is for and in the rural areas some villagers are even surprised elections have come so “all of a sudden” with no rallies having been held or any people beaten up – they think the election is for political parties!
At the end of the day, it is clear that while the government —in this case the country’s two major but weary political parties, Zanu PF and MDC-T — cannot claim to have tried to get the ordinary person to feel part and parcel of this important document. The purpose for bulldozing the constitution through is political. Two political parties agreed to rubberstamp a conglomeration of their own ideas into national law so that they go for elections. They both hope to win the election and to deal with the issue of the national charter after that.
Organisations that have the mandate to educate voters have also evidently done nothing to get Zimbabweans to know what it is they are voting on today. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission cannot claim to have done anything – after all, they only got money to do anything on the eve of the referendum. Copac, which claims to have conceived a good “people-driven” national law, was still trying to print copies of the draft charter a few days before the voting and up to now, both the comprehensive document and the brief version are still not readily available.
So, there is absolutely no doubt that most Zimbabweans that are voting today are doing so blindly. They have no idea what they are voting for, even though they may be going to vote “Yes”, as instructed by the country’s major political parties.
Nonetheless, let the voting proceed peacefully and the voters exercise their right wisely.