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Zim problems not constitutional

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THE political and economic challenges Zimbabwe went through in the last decade were not constitutional problems, but were a result of people failing to conduct themselves properly.

NewsDay Assignments Editor Dumisani Sibanda (ND) last week spoke to Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn president Simba Makoni (SM) on the new governance charter and what the future holds for the country.

Below are the excerpts:

ND: Zimbabwe has just adopted a new Constitution, how is it going to change the lives of Zimbabweans?
SM: Firstly, Let me repeat a view I hold very strongly going back that no constitution is worth the paper that it is written on if the people don’t obey it, if the people don’t observe it. We have invested a lot of emotion in the last four years around a new Constitution as if to suggest in some cases that our problems were caused by the Lancaster House Constitution. The constitution was amended 19 times.

You really can’t claim that the Lancaster House constitution plus 19 touches equals to the original constitution. I don’t believe that the real problem of governance in this country have to do with having a weak post-colonial constitution. There are many things that we did and some we are still doing now which are not because they are allowed by the constitution or they are stopped by the constitution. All the pain that we have inflicted on each other from Gukurahundi to Murambatsvina. They happened because we did not obey the constitution and did not respect each other as a people.

So with that background I would like to say to you I have no real excitement about the new constitution. Our problems were not constitutional problems. The collapse of our economy was not constitutional. It was not because our constitution allowed the economy to collapse. When business managers were arrested in the closing down sale of 2006, it wasn’t because the constitution allowed us to do so.

So when I say I have no excitement about the new constitution it’s because I think we are offering the wrong solution to the wrong problem or the wrong solution to the correct problem. The problem we have is that of lack of constitutionalism, which is not of a bad constitution, but lack of respect for the constitution, lack of respect for the law and I don’t see what the new document is going to do which the old documents were unable to do to change the hearts of the people and especially the hearts of the leaders.

So I don’t have excitement as I say about the new constitution, not because it is a bad document, which it is by the way, a constitution which perpetuates this bloated Parliament and bloats it even more from 210 to 270 in the House of Assembly, from 63 to 88 in the senate is not a good constitution. A constitution which retains a nonsensical dual vice-presidency predicated on political expediency, is not a good constitution, a constitution which takes the right of women to participate on equal terms and creates a little paddock of 60 seats for them is not a good constitution.

ND: How would you have liked that aspect on women to be handled?
SM: All citizens compete on equal terms on all available positions.
ND: But is that not the accepted trend worldwide? That we live in a patriarchal society in which women are marginalised and therefore the electoral playing field is uneven and such action is meant to be some sort of affirmative action in the circumstances. What’s your response to that argument?

SM: This is patronising. It’s placing women at a lower level than men saying because you are lower than us we will give you a special preference. These are reserved seats like the 20 reserved seats for whites in the Lancaster House Constitution. This is what we have re-done, only this is not on grounds of race. It is on grounds of gender and yet that same constitution says there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of gender.

ND: Do you think as it is constituted, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is independent?
SM: No, No, No, it’s made up of the nominees of the three GPA parties and each one of them nominated their enthusiasts, people that they can trust, people who stood out in their political paddocks as being reliable, and that’s not independent. There are individuals like Justice (Rita) Makarau who is a person of integrity. We could have had more Justice Makaraus had this process not been a subject of political horse trading. I, Mugabe will name so and so, so that you Tsvangirai will name so and so, that is not how independent bodies are made in other countries.

ND. How would you have wanted the ZEC commissioners selected?
SM: Under normal circumstances an apolitical State institution would have put together a short-list of credible individuals of competency and integrity for the President to appoint. The President’s function would be merely endorsing a panel of independent citizens of integrity proffered to him.

ND: Is MKD participating in this election? If so, at what scale will it field candidates?
SM: We are preparing to participate fully in the next election, if the conditions for a free and fair choice are assured.

ND: What is MKD promising the people? Why should I vote for MKD?
SM: Firstly, we are committed to safeguarding the rights and freedoms of citizens. We are guided by a number of fundamental values, honesty and integrity, service to the people. We are not moved by a craving for power to control, to be ‘chef’. We are driven by a yearning to serve and to participate with others. We are committed to renewal. Renewing the personality of the Zimbabwean and renewing the face of Zimbabwe. We are committed to equity, justice and fairness. We will not look after one portion of the population or the citizenry in preference to another. We are committed to what we call genuine empowerment and our genuine empowerment is removing impediments that bar people from doing things for themselves.

ND: In 2008, you were one of the three presidential candidates. Are you standing in this election?
SM: MKD will field a presidential candidate. We have a process which we haven’t got to as yet of selecting our candidates including the presidential candidates. I will offer myself together with other party members and the party delegates at a convention to select the best candidate for us.

ND: Do you think you have a realistic chance of becoming the next president?
SM: In 2008, after campaigning for exactly 35 days as an independent candidate without a party machinery, they said I won 8,31%, that is what they said. But there are some who sugges, I won a lot more than that, but let us accept what George Chiweshe announced. This time we have a party. It’s still a young party. It is growing, we are still building up party structures, but we have a better organised machinery than we had in 2008. We have been around as a party since 2009.

ND: But it is almost look like it’s still one individual, Simba Makoni, the other members are not visible.
SM: We are a young party. I can tell you that if you look at the mileage your newspaper give to Robert Mugabe as compared to Rugare Gumbo and Webster Shamu is not different from the space the media gives to me as leader of my party. I don’t think we are any different. It is the culture of our politics in this country. It is what one person described as ‘big man politics’. We always elevate the leader and not appreciate that the leader is part of a team. If you look at the MDC-T, how much space do you give to Morgan Tsvangirai as compared to Nelson Chamisa? So it is not peculiar to us. This is how we manage our affairs we tend to elevate the leader. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a party and there are no other leaders.

ND: What do you find to be wrong with Tsvangirai? What is his tragic flaw as it were?
SM: What is right with Simba Makoni? He is honest. He works hard. He doesn’t steal. He is not corrupt. He is not anybody’s mind. He is his own mind. He is not even Robert Mugabe’s mind. That is the leader that Zimbabwe deserves.

ND: So in your analysis of Zimbabwean politics, is corruption the biggest challenge?
SM: Not the biggest problem but one of the problems. The biggest problem is incompetency. There are people who are holding offices that they have no hope in hell of ever executing the functions of that office.

ND: Who are those? Name and shame them.
SM: Who in this government is competent in their office from the president downwards? Why is our economy the only one which is imploding? Only yesterday (last Tuesday)Tendai Biti (Finance minister) was saying we are the only economy in Africa which is declining when everyone else is going forward. Tell me what the commander-in-chief (Mugabe) is doing about that? We have people who are sitting on the most fertile land on the planet and they are waiting for food aid and yet in 1996 those villagers were feeding themselves and everybody else and getting surpluses to export and you have ministers of Agriculture, Finance, and Lands.

ND: Are you suggesting that land reform was a failure ?
SM: No, I am not suggesting the land reform programme is a failure. I am telling you what you know yourself that Zimbabwe has been in food deficit for the last 12 years after we took land. This is the point I want to emphasise because the land reform programme refers to about I don’t know how many millions of hectares because the number has never been made clear of original commercial farms that were acquired under fast-track and allocated to
360 000 families bear in mind before land reform Zimbabwe was self sufficient in food. The bulk of that food was produced in communal areas. Those communal areas are still there. Why are we in food deficit now? We didn’t acquire the communal areas. We didn’t redistribute land in the communal areas.

ND:So you if we get competent people to run the government, we can turn around the fortunes of this country?
SM: Oh yes! The economy can take off like a helicopter, vertically.

ND: On that flying note thank you, Dr Makoni for the interview.
SM: You are welcome, thank you.

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