Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Zimbabwean constitution. Is there light at the end of the tunnel...?

The constitution making process played a fundamental role in the democratisation of Zimbabwe, a significant constituent in the national agenda for the year 2010 which most citizens approached with urgency. Towards the constitution outreach meetings I was part of an association that played a pivotal role in raising residents’ awareness so as to capacitate them to contribute to the making of a new Zimbabwean constitution. The residents association (BPRA) held meetings across the city’s 29 wards encouraging residents to take part in the constitution making process. The association noted the essence of having a constitution that reflects the views of the people and one that caters for the needs of the people.
 As a way of mitigating against apathy in a region that is allegedly known for shunning a lot of political activity, the association held focus group meetings that were specifically targeted at community leaders.  These were organised with the notion that the community leaders would disseminate information, in their respective communities, highlighting the importance of having a constitution that captures the views of all citizens. The meetings conducted at ward level guided the residents on the talking points that steered the outreach meetings.
During the meetings residents stated the non-negotiable matters that the people of Matabeleland and Bulawayo are most passionate about. The non-negotiable matters include:
  • Gugurahundi as part of the Preamble
  • Devolution of power                          
  • 50/50 representation of men and women in parliament
  • Dual citizenship
  • Freedom of expression
  • Equality before the law
  • Independent and non-partisan attorney general and governor of the RBZ
  • Independent commissions
 A constitution that excludes these would be deemed as unacceptable not only by Bulawayo residents but the nation at large. To emphasise on the importance of including these issues in the constitution, a position paper was compiled and submitted to the COPAC teams during outreach meetings.  The position papers highlighted the residents’ minimum demands with regards to the constitution. Bulawayo residents signed the papers as a way of authenticating the demands.
As one of the Information Secretaries of the Matabeleland Civic Society Consortium (MCSC), I was part of an organisation that is made up of a group of Bulawayo based civic society organisations which are Bulawayo Agenda, Christian Legal Society (CLS), Habakkuk Trust, Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda (MACRA), National Youth Development Trust (NYDT) and Radio Dialogue. These organisations, which make up MCSC, collaborated in monitoring the constitution making process in Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Bulawayo specifically. This made it easy to monitor and evaluate the outreach process in various places. The role played by these associations was not only limited to the period of the constitution making process but will continue in relevance until the new constitution is functional.
After the series of outreach meetings held in Bulawayo, BPRA went back to the residents to evaluate the constitution making process so as to determine whether or not the constitution would be a people oriented one. Most residents expressed discontentment towards the unethical conduct of the outreach teams, their failure to keep time, poor facilitation, intimidation and poor translation among other concerns. These factors contributed immensely to the residents’ doubt that the draft constitution would be people driven. However, residents are anticipating the draft constitution and referendum as this will award them an opportunity to democratically accept or denounce the draft through the ballot. 

No comments: