By Musa Kika
So finally there’s news from Harare. The second draft of the new constitution was submitted to parliament and the not-so-united government of national unity this month.
For over a decade we have tried to come up with a new constitution that reflects the people’s will and replaces the 1979 Lancaster House Constitution, a ceasefire document drawn up at the end of the liberation war. We cannot afford to miss this opportunity. This is the rationale: constitutional development is a process and not an event.
It has taken decades and centuries for the democracies we admire to be where they are today and that is why South Africa’s almost overnight transition in 1994, enabled by the 1993 interim constitution, is referred to by many as a miracle. SA adopted its current constitution in 1996.
SA probably has the most progressive constitution in the world. In Zim we want a miracle, and that is the problem. We cannot achieve a clean break from the past so easily. This constitution should be accepted with its few flaws (whatever those are) and be used as a bridge to a new era. Who said a final constitution cannot be adopted later?
From what I have read I have noted many provisions that bring about positive reform to our beloved nation. A few examples will illustrate this:
A constitutional court
It’s important the nation have an independent constitutional court. This will develop our constitutionalism and foster expediency in the judiciary.
It’s commendable that we have gone beyond civil and political rights and entrenched socio-economic rights. I would obviously not know how it will go with the implementation part, but it is one thing to fight for the recognition of socio-economic rights when they are not in the constitution and another to fight for them when they are constitutionally entrenched.
Zimbabwe will have 16 official languages! That’s a lot, but these languages are spoken in Zimbabwe. And sign language is one of these. I am particularly touched at how we have included languages originally not Zimbabwean. Some of them spoken by people who came to Zimbabwe as migrant workers. Chewa is a classic example.
They might not be as tightly knit as we’d like but the process was led by three, rival, political camps and we should therefore accept the outcome is a compromise. Products of compromise have their limitations.
We have seen a lot of stagnation in the inclusive government and we seem to be failing to agree on issues of national importance. Many people would hold a different view but I think it’s time we build a solid government. The unity government played its part to save us from the brink of catastrophe but I cannot envisage a situation where we would go to elections using the current constitution and electoral system without first regulating the environment under which the elections will be held to avoid a repeat of June 2008.
I would not know what the three parties will conclude on the draft but in the event that they do agree to take it to a referendum, my opinion is that people should go for the YES vote.
It is healthy that civil society is there to guide voters on the merits and flaws of the constitution and will sensitise voters to vote in a certain way, but civil society also needs to understand that progress comes gradually and opportunities to change the status quo for the better should not be missed.
The National Constitutional Assembly has voiced it will campaign for a no vote, not based on its analysis of the content of the draft, but for the sole reason the process was led by politicians.
Indeed no right-thinking Zimbabwean ever wanted politicians to lead the process but in all this the voter should have progress in mind in the voting booth. It has cost us a lot of resources to put together this draft and we have also willingly participated in the two-year-long process. Will it then not be irresponsible of us to throw the document away?
Musa Kika is a second year LLB student at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and an SA Brightest Young Minds Alumni. He is interested in human rights, governance and constitutional law. He writes in his personal capacity.