Draft marks defining moment: Tsvangirai

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has paid homage to the generation of liberation fighters who established a constitutional order that delivered the 1980 independence in the wake of the finalisation of a new draft constitution.

In a statement following the historic pact by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) principals on Thursday, Tsvangirai said the Lancaster House Constitution had played its part.

“The achievement at Lancaster House must never be underestimated, we will forever be indebted to the sacrifices that were made to achieve that key moment,” Tsvangirai said.

“But we all recognised that the Lancaster House Constitution was not a home-grown document and that is why it failed to answer critical questions for the majority of the people.  Although we tried, over the years, to reform the Lancaster House Constitution, the result was a patchwork that was unpleasant to the eye. It is this unpleasantness that drove the clamour for a new, home-grown and people-driven constitutional dispensation.”

Tsvangirai led calls for constitutional and political reform as leader of the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions at the turn of the century through the National Constitutional Assembly, before spearheading the formation of the labour-backed MDC in 1999.

Efforts to craft a new charter were still-born after Zimbabweans rejected a government sponsored draft in February 2000.

Mugabe last year described the Lancaster charter as a “torn pair of jeans that needed to be thrown away” but his party has in the past also threatened to call for elections under the same constitution.
Tsvangirai, called for a new culture of constitutionalism in Zimbabwe.

“Unless there is serious commitment to implement and uphold its basic tenets and values, we will have achieved nothing,” he said.

“It is important that we uphold the provisions of this constitution even if the outcome does not favour those who hold the reins of power, the rule of law should be supreme but better still the principles and values that underpin the law are even more supreme.

“We must build a culture, not of changing the constitution at willy-nilly to suit our whims, but of allowing the constitution to transform our political culture.”

Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister paid tribute to the resilience of Zimbabweans.

“This is, without doubt, a defining moment in our nation’s political, social and economic trajectory.

There were occasions when it seemed there was no light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

“However, true to their nature, the people of Zimbabwe demonstrated grit, determination and will power to create this landmark moment in the country’s history, demonstrated by our capacity for resilience and endurance and fuelled by an intrinsic desire to change our circumstances for the better.”

Tsvangirai said through the new draft constitution, Zimbabweans had expressly revealed how they want to be governed.

“Zimbabweans identified and ring-fenced their cherished fundamental rights and freedoms, which they demand to be guarded jealously. The running thread in this relationship is the separation of powers and a system of checks and balances to ensure transparency, accountability and responsible government.”

Paying homage to Mugabe and other GPA principals, Tsvangirai said the economic and social challenges facing Zimbabwe today are a product of a defective constitution.

“We should collectively be mindful of the fact that what we have is a product of multiple and sometimes divergent views, all of which demanded accommodation, people do not always sing a chorus of agreement on all issues,” he said.

“But we have worked hard to find each other; and ultimately, to produce a document that is mutually agreeable. What we have is a true testament of the fact that it is possible to achieve your goals without using violence but relying purely on peaceful means and the power of persuasion.”

He also paid tribute to Sadc and South African leader and facilitator Jacob Zuma.

“They have patiently and calmly helped us to navigate the murky waters of negotiation, reiterating, time and again, the need to ensure completion of the process,” he said.

A parliamentary committee commonly referred to as Copac has spent the greater part of the last four year heckling over the crafting of a new constitution with sceptics predicting that they would fail.

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