Failure to abide by the constitution, the bane of Zim politics
While the “Yes” vote prevailed in the March 16 2013 referendum, it remains
to be seen whether this will mark a new dispensation in Zimbabwe’s political
discourse considering that the country has no history of problems of
constitutions, but of constitutionalism, that is abiding by what we have
If the Lancaster House and its 19 amendments was enforced as per its letter
and spirit, there would not be a crisis of governance in Zimbabwe, as is the
case at the moment.
Even the inclusive government could have been a success story if the whole
Global Political Agreement (amendment 19) had been respected by all the
three political parties in the Government of National Unity.
I am one of those who do not think that there is any fundamental and
substantial difference between the Lancaster House Constitution and the
copac draft constitution, which was endorsed by most Zimbabweans on March
Both are transitional documents with many compromises and entrenchments to
protect the ruling elite, which are not people-driven.
Whereas the Lancaster House had 19 amendments in 33 years, I can predict
that the copac-led constitution will have an equal number in less than five
years given that neither Zanu PF nor the two MDC formations is completely
comfortable with it.
The copac draft constitution, which sceptics have labelled an elite pact,
will not achieve the feat made by the US constitution which has had only 22
amendments in more than 200 years because there is a serious dearth of
constitutionalism in Zimbabwe.
Given the foregoing, whichever political party that emerges the winner is
going to stream-roll constitutional changes to the copac draft constitution
at a faster rate than what happened to the Lancaster House Constitution
under Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF rule.
My respectful submission is that since history is going to repeat itself
like this, the copac draft constitution is not going to lead to a more open
and responsive democracy as other people would want us to believe, but will
be manipulated by the next ruling party to entrench an even more powerful
It can, therefore, be argued that constitutional development in Zimbabwe
will not take us anywhere unless it is accompanied by a change of mindset,
where constitutionalism is elevated more than constitutions.
As long as Zimbabwe remains an authoritarian and totalitarian state,
elaborate constitutions will not be the panacea to its governance crisis.
Nothing will change when the ruling elite continue to act outside them or
suspend or amend them at will with impunity, in the manner Zanu PF has
behaved since independence.
What Zimbabwe needs is an appreciation that since written constitutions are
historically associated with political liberalism and the age of
enlightenment, they should be enforceable to all and sundry.
It is also my considered view that in the absence of a political will to
embrace the doctrine of separation of powers among the three arms of state
by the ruling elite, nothing is going to change, no matter how elaborate any
constitution can be.
While the constitutional development in Zimbabwe shows that there has always
been an attempt to fix the limits and relations of the legislative,
judicial, and executive powers of the state, there has been a glaring abuse
of the other two arms of the state by the executive as the on-going tussle
about the election date shows.
It remains to be seen whether this is going to change when the Copac draft
constitution is assented to as the new governing charter of Zimbabwe before
the harmonised elections are held.
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