Reality Check: Our Principals, Our Constitution, Our Transition

 In his speech during the opening of the Second All Stakeholders conference, President Mugabe chastised those who maintained that the constitution-drafting process that we Zimbabweans are undergoing was a parliamentary one. Seemingly believing otherwise and as if to better clarify, the President went on to make similar remarks at a luncheon following the opening of Parliament.

Off the cuff statements aside, this sets a perilous precedent during such a sensitive and intricate drafting period. We today have an opportunity to make clear that those in parliament are working diligently and have full control of a people’s constitution. We implore the Principals’ assistance in ensuring this program is a smooth and efficient one but lines must be drawn regarding ownership and accountability in order for Government to fulfill its obligation to our citizenry.

The President did make a point however when reminding us that the Global Political Agreement was a product of the Principals and that it is the Principals who signed it. However, one putting in to motion an agreement or a law will not be justified as an excuse if that very person later fails to follow it. That is to say, in our nation, once one has formed legislation, like any other citizen, one is bound by it until such time as said legislation is amended or revoked. Indeed as we acknowledge the Principals that signed the Global Political Agreement, we understand as they do that we are all bound by the Agreement’s terms and face harsh scrutiny should we not follow them to the letter.

One of the noblest hallmarks of leadership in fact across the world is the ability to create legislation that will produce tangible change yet in doing so, abide by a level system and respect the rule of law. It is because of this that it is imperative the President not violate the Public Order and Security Act for example, the Protection of Privacy nor Amendment 18. Although we acknowledge President Mugabe was involved in their creation, he no longer owns them. Whether he has succeeded or not on strategies regarding any of these policies respectively is therefore beside the point.

Ambassador Chris Mutsvangwa believes otherwise. He believes that our Principals can do as they please with their GPA. We must recognize that such logic is ill-founded and from a legal standpoint, uninformed. We live in a mature society and as such, all abide by the same set of rules, like a grown man does with his elders.

Article 6 of the Global Partnership Agreement provides for the appointment of a Select Committee of Parliament to spearhead the writing of our constitution.  Indeed pursuant to the Standing Orders and Rules of Parliament, Speaker Hon. Lovemore Moyo announced the appointment of the Select Committee as a parliamentary committee in 2009. Unlike the Chidyausiku Commission, these Select Committee members did not take an oath before the President, a clear indication that this was not a committee of the executive.

It is this very Select Committee of Parliament that must then produce the draft constitution and table the same before the Second All Stakeholders Conference. After the referendum, it is up to Parliament to formally pass the draft into law.

This does not mean that the Principals have no role to play in the process – Their accredited role is an important one as they should take active interest and in the spirit of effective transition, facilitate the smooth execution of this parliamentary task by those appointed to execute it.

Taking a stand in favor for the parliamentary processes not only bodes well for our Principals on the home front and abroad but often is necessary to deter corruption and foul-play. For example, during the First All Stakeholders Conference, the Principals intervened to stop violence, mayhem and chaos that had been started by a faction of a political party. The Principals themselves have preached in recent weeks and months the language of peaceful coexistence and thanks to their interventions then, the conference was able to proceed the following day.

Zimbabwe is a nation at the doorstep of a transition into universal respect and adherence to rule of law, which includes the doctrine of separation of powers among the judiciary, the executive and the legislature. Let us rely on our Principals to ensure efficiency in the constitution-drafting process as we together take measured strides towards lasting reform.

Douglas Mwonzora

Douglas T. Mwonzora is Party Spokesman for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), Zimbabwe. 

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