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Kanengoni should give up his pretence

IT is high time that Alex Kanengoni gave up his jovial pretence that we live in a democracy where healthy debate is the norm. He remembers gleefully the “raging debate” his 100 days with Robert Mugabe generated.

FONT face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>This was hardly of great national importance, and the Robert Mugabe of Kanengoni’s fond memory bears little resemblance to the despot who “governs” us today, other than the fact that he rarely smiled. What exactly is he advocating in his opinion piece “Who silenced the Daily News?” (Independent, October 10).

Kanengoni tells us that had we all, like good citizens, accepted the draft constitution in 2000 everything would now be just fine. Our first mistake was to dare to say no. Never mind that the constitutional exercise was hijacked from the NCA in the first place. Never mind that the people’s views about the draft constitution were largely ignored. Consulting the people meant embarking on an extensive and expensive exercise, entrenching Jonathan Moyo in the process and then handing the whole thing over to the President for final touches – in other words rewriting it the way he wanted it. Big Brother knows best and we didn’t really mean it when we said we didn’t want an executive president with such sweeping powers as the current incumbent. We were misguided.

As for writing into a constitution a financial commitment by a foreign power – well since when could we legislate for the British, or any other foreign nation for that matter? We can barely legislate for ourselves.

Which brings us to Aippa.

In stating that Aippa is law because parliament passed it ignores completely the sham that parliament has become. Zanu PF has its majority because of 30 unelected seats – all the President’s Men. Kanengoni takes no cognisance of Aippa’s skewed passage through parliament – the number of times it had to be returned and rewritten because of its vagueness in application and because of concerns that it did infringe the basic rights inherent even in our flawed constitution.

In spite of this, Aippa was “fast-tracked”, our new euphemism for riding slipshod over the wishes of the people, and at the same time “amendments” were promised as a sop to Nigeria and South Africa’s concerns that perhaps finally the Zimbabwean government had gone too far.

Kanengoni has lived too long in an undemocratic society. He has forgotten that people have a right to challenge the constitutionality of a law. He says the Daily News had declared the law unconstitutional by refusing to register and describes their appeal to the Supreme Court as “cheek.” And what is the Supreme Court’s role here? I am also not a lawyer, but according to Geoff Feltoe (who is one): “All legislation passed by Parliament must conform to the Bill of Rights provisions of the Constitution. If a legislative provision is inconsistent with the Bill of Rights the courts will declare it void and of no force and effect. This function primarily vests in the Supreme Court. When there are doubts about the constitutionality of new legislation persons affected should be entitled to obtain a ruling from the Supreme Court as to whether or not the legislation is constitutional.”

This the Daily News attempted to do – well within their rights and nothing to do with any “angry, prowling ghost”. Any ghosts that are prowling would much more likely be lurking in the corridors of the Media and Information Commission and behind the shoulders of government officials.

The government media has been responsible for much more reckless and baseless reporting than the independent press. How often has Aippa been invoked against irresponsible reporting from the government-controlled media?

Kanengoni states that there seems to be a heartening convergence of thinking as evidenced by the President’s “sons of the soil” speech at Heroes Acre. This is to be welcomed, but is after all the very first sign of acknowledgement of the MDC as a Zimbabwean political party after years of vitriolic diatribe. At the same time, the treason trial of Morgan Tsvangirai is about to resume and now MDC spokesperson Paul Themba Nyathi is to stand trial for attempting to overthrow a “constitutionally-elected government”.

Jonathan Moyo calls the remaining independent papers “running dogs of imperialism” and Tafataona Mahoso – the “non-partisan” head of the Media and Information Commission is no doubt looking for ways to deregister the remaining voices. Not so heartening for healthy debate and the airing of divergent views.

Needless to say the silencing of the Daily News denies the majority of our population any information as to what is actually going on in Zimbabwe. Most of us know who has “blood on their hands” and really – is it the Daily News?

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