Dawn of a new era?


FINALLY the long wait is over – Zimbabwe yesterday adopted a new constitution, condemning to the dustbins of history the archaic Lancaster House charter, which has been amended 19 times.

Newsday Editorial

Assenting to the new constitution by President Robert Mugabe at State House brought to an end a process that started at the consummation of the inclusive government four years ago and has been no stroll in the park.

It was a road characterised by bickering, finger-pointing and emotions as Zimbabweans battled to have their inputs prevail.

However, at the end of the day, in a rare sign of unity considering the polarisation that has divided the country, platforms of understanding were found when the referendum came in March and almost the entire nation voted “yes” to the new basic law.

Unlike most Bills, it sailed through Parliament without hitches as traditional rivals from MDC parties and Zanu PF gave it the thumbs-up both in the Lower and Upper Houses.

Enshrined in the new constitution are progressive chapters like the Bill of Rights which observes citizens’ economic, political and cultural rights.

It also clips the powers of the President who, apart from serving a maximum two-term limit, now has to consult Parliament on issues like deploying soldiers to foreign countries. Aliens, numbering millions in Zimbabwe, are also recognised as citizens with voting rights. A lot more positives are in the new constitution.

However, the talking point now is: Will the new constitution be observed in both letter and spirit?

It is one thing to have a supreme law with all the niceties and clauses which genuinely protect citizens, and another to have citizens who abuse it with impunity. The latter is the fear gripping Zimbabweans, especially as the country goes for elections.

How prepared are Zimbabweans to uphold the new constitution and act within its confines?

Yes, the condemned Lancaster House charter had numerous negatives, but nowhere in it does it allow uniformed forces to hijack civilian processes as they allegedly did in the 2008 presidential election runoff when they were said to have set up bases countrywide to intimidate voters and support a certain political party.

Nowhere in it does it allow traditional chiefs to be partisan and force their subjects to vote for a particular political party – yet many of them went into overdrive in recent years, taking such positions. Examples are too numerous to mention.

Now as the new supreme law comes into effect, it remains the hope of many that it brings with it a paradigm shift, particularly concerning the powers-that-be.

It is a law that must be observed by all Zimbabweans from downtrodden peasants in Mukumbura and Nkayi to the seemingly untouchables in Borrowdale Brooke and elsewhere – it’s the ultimate law. A law not just for you and me, but for posterity – a law for our children, grandchildren and generations to come.

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