A new Constitution, signed into law by President Robert Mugabe on Wednesday, is not a guarantee for democratic reform or an assurance of free and fair elections, civil society organisations have warned.
REPORT BY GAMMA MUDARIKIRI
While the signing of the new charter was lauded as a key milestone, the civil society groups warned that there was still much to be done to ensure that the country becomes democratic.
Habakkuk Trust, chief executive officer, Dumisani Nkomo said the new Constitution was a huge achievement on paper, but there was need for political will to ensure its success.
“The new Constitution is still a piece of paper for now and is not a guarantee for the democratisation of the Zimbabwe political space,” he said.
“What is critical at this point is for those in authority to respect the Constitution and in that way we can expect a democratic state.”
Nkomo said the new Constitution was also not an assurance of a free and fair election, as parts of the supreme law will only take effect after the swearing in of a new government after the polls.
Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association (BPRA) coordinator, Rodrick Fayayo, although acknowledging the new Constitution as a milestone achievement, said there was need for constitutionalism to take root, if the country is to enjoy full democracy.
“The new constitution, despite being a quantum step towards the democratisation of Zimbabwe, will not mean anything if authorities do not respect it,” he said.
Fayayo concurred with Nkomo, that there was no guarantee that the country would hold a credible election, pointing to the chaotic voter registration exercise.
Christian Alliance director, Useni Sibanda said the new Constitution was a positive development and would drive forward the process of national healing.
He gave an example of the Organ of National Healing, Reconciliation and Integration that was set up in 2010, but was still ineffective despite being a noble idea.
Constitution may not change political culture —Analyst
In a statement, MDC president Welshman Ncube also said the new constitution was a positive step towards attaining a full democracy.
“We finally have a constitution that we can truly call our own, a constitution by which the people have reclaimed their rights and their power to determine through devolution, their own local affairs and ultimately reserved for themselves the powers to determine the use of their local resources,” he said.
Political analyst Charles Mangongera however said Zimbabweans must not pop the champagne yet because the new Constitution is “only a rule book that can be shredded”.
“There is a risk that the Constitution might fail to transform political culture in Zimbabwe,” said Mangongera. “Having a good Constitution is one thing.
Respecting that Constitution is something else.”
He said many experts have observed that the Lancaster Constitution had many good clauses that would have guaranteed rule of law and respect for human rights but because the political leaders had no culture of constitutionalism, they routinely violated it.
“I think we need a new generation of leaders that will respect the Constitution. I do not see how Mugabe and his henchmen are going to respect this new Constitution because constitutionalism is not in their political DNA,” said Mangongera.