Zimbabwe: A Sturdy Constitution or Just Indigestion?

July 7, 2009

Zimbabwe recently began to hold public hearings in the constitutional reform process mandated by the Global Political Agreement (GPA) signed last September. According to the timeline laid out in the agreement brokered between the former majority party ZANU-PF, the current majority party MDC-T and splinter party MDC-M, a new constitution must be voted on by the Zimbabwe people in a referendum held around July 2010.

However, there is already disagreement as to how the process should unfold. According to the GPA, there are to be open hearing where input by the people is to shape the constitutional process before being ratified by Parliament and then sent to a vote by the people. However, the ZANU-PF party wants to use as a basis for the constitution a draft drawn up in September 2007 called the Kariba Draft. This document was negotiated by the three political parties. The MDC-T feels that this document should be scrapped and the process should start anew because the Kariba Draft was only meant to apply to the time frame of the last elections in March 2008; because ZANU-PF discarded the Kariba Draft in December 2007, the MDC feels the document has no legitimacy and therefore no basis from which to proceed.

Finally, civil society members in Zimbabwe feel that the voice of the people was silenced in both the Kariba Draft and the current proceedings and that stronger input is needed by the people of Zimbabwe for any new constitution to have legitimacy and truly reflect the will of the people. Considering the sacrifices members of civil society make every day to fight for civil and human rights, I think they more than anyone are in the best position to say which rights should be enshrined and protected in a document that will govern their lives and manage their peace. Either way, it looks like bumpy roads are still ahead in Zimbabwe.