Reflections on Constitution deal

HARARE - Some sections of the Zimbabwean community and beyond have been celebrating the alleged constitutional deal secured by the principals to the Global Political Agreement (GPA).

The deal resolved the deadlock that was stalling the constitution-making process.

According to various sources, the principals agreed on the seven sticking points or issues.

This opinion provides an anatomy of the constitutional deal exploring possible lessons that can be drawn from the deal. Ensuing, are some of the interesting observations from the principal’s constitutional deal.

Firstly, I would like to concur with the Crisis Coalition’s statement that most accommodations made were meant to allay political fears rather than advancing the aspirations of Zimbabweans. For instance, the agreement on running mate provision is a reprieve to political parties who will not be forced to deal with succession battle outside their own internal procedures.

Again, the issue of devolution is something that Zimbabweans have been clamouring for in the past two decades or so. Unfortunately, the latest draft shows that from the perspective of the principals, Zimbabweans are calling for too much. Although, it is difficult to do away with personal interests and biases when dealing with national issues, leaders should continue striving to put the interests of the nation first. The constitution-making process cannot be used as a battleground for political parties.

Yet in Zimbabwe, over the last four years governance issues have been mainly characterised by political struggles of the three most influential political parties.

The second observation from the deal is that the constitution-making process has always been reflecting the will and interests of the most powerful political elements.

This becomes glaringly clear when considering how various politicians vehemently attacked the leader of Mavambo Simba Makoni for criticising the deal.

It is interesting to note that some dismissed Simba Makoni’s claims on the basis that he had no authority and a significant following. Thus, the concept of “a people driven” constitution remains a fallacy.

This only means that if you have no following and constitutional authority then it is not your duty to comment about national public issues.

However, those who know the truth were supposed to bring light to Simba Makoni and others highlighting the advantages of the latest developments regarding the constitution-making process.

The agreement on land commission is also worth examining.

The principals agreed to establish a land commission that will be an executive body falling under the minister responsible for Lands. The land commission, if put in place will be expected to carry out a land audit for the purposes of ensuring “one man one farm principle”.

The only challenge is that the land commission is likely to be less independent as compared to other independent constitutional commissions. The biggest challenge is that the commission will be under a Cabinet minister.

While this will reduce conflicts between the minister and the commission, there is danger that the commission will lack autonomy. This will inevitably compromise its capacity to deliver its obligations.

Nevertheless, it is a step ahead towards refining governance issues within the country.

Concerning the National Peace and Reconciliation Commission, the principals agreed to have a constitutional body that will exist for 10 years.

The challenge here is more compounded than the 10-year proposed life span of the commission.

It is critical for the drafters and the members of Parliament to take opportunity of the remaining stages to ensure that the commission and other constitutional bodies are given clear mandates.

In this regard, useful lessons can be drawn from the manner in which the GPA was incorporated into the Constitution. In the GPA there is an assumption that, the Prime Minister was supposed to be the head of government, yet in reality we have something else.

Lastly, it is important for Zimbabweans to accept that it is has always been to difficulty to come up with a perfect legal document.

The process has to be punctuated by compromises and mutual understanding by both parties. However, the compromises should be realistic and acceptable to the people.

Those concerned with drafting the charter should avoid a situation where the proposed changes will leave things as they are. - Shakespear Hamauswa

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