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New Constitution: Denying themselves a key verb of politics

25 May 2013 at 14:24hrs | Views
As expected, the constitutional bill was assented to by the President, all to an indifferent Nation that went about its business, unbothered, without notice. As repeatedly said by this column, the constitution-making exercise was one huge display of thoughtful sterility by a schismatic middle class vying for political advantage and office, all in the name of "the people", "democracy" and "good governance".

Cheered on of course by Western capitals which, once bitten, now twice push for a supreme law that kowtows to their interests and their pursuits in Zimbabwe. Supreme of course to you and me the governed; supine to them once decoyed as "investors", "donors" and "friends of Zimbabwe", the last summing up an enforced endearment whose embrace nearly suffocates us.

This is why they put in their money, turning UNDP into a democratic Trojan Horse. We are hardly a mile from the era of "benevolent paternalism" that governed the interface between the native and his white master under classical colonialism.

Artless way to end Juice
Of course our politicians were trying to give this hard-to-notice event some epochal ring.

Particularly those in the opposition who see in this mediocre, character-free document a crowning moment to a laboured enterprise.

They wiped their brows.
Less because they are tired, or see an emblazoned crown atop their endeavours, more because they see the menacing approach of an election that audits their four-year durance in the house of power.

They have nothing to show for those four years.

The voter has questions. Those coquettishly seeking his favours have very sparse records to show, to justify their re-election.

So anything which gives a veneer of industry and breakthrough, is being appropriated, blown out of value and touted for great notice.

It was a bit ridiculous to hear the MDC-T emphasising in their so-called policy retreat that they shall ensure the Central Intelligence Organisation operates under a statutory framework.

It sounded like a very bold, original decision, bold goal. Until one of course realises this is what the new constitution enjoins!

Or its pilfering of Government Work Programme, and then renaming it ART! What an artless way of burying tasteless Juice.

Going down satisfied?
But the event glowed and all parties looked accomplished, looked like solid achievers. It was seamless glory to be shared by all and sundry, much like human beings in darkness - all faces become beauties, don't they?

They were humorous moments, too. Welshman Ncube and his hench-woman mistakenly thought all was done after a group photograph of principals.

He left.
Behind his footsteps other principals made sterling speeches that capped this "historic occasion".

He was not there. First to speak was Mutambara, who saw three points out of the whole event.

Second, Tsvangirai, who saw the document as "home-grown", in the process - giving us a few more amusing goofs. He claimed that in the President's "memoirs" is a confession by Mr Mugabe that he appended his signature to the Lancaster document with a "heavy heart".

Tsvangirai then added that by contrast, the President would append his signature to a new constitution which is home-grown. He added: "You will now go down a satisfied man"! Of course he meant "go down in history a satisfied man."

Was this bad English or bad thought, many wondered. Not to add that the President is still to favour humanity with his memoirs! But I am on Ncube.

He left - or was left by - the event, and thus discounted himself as a principal. This time he had no one to blame. Maybe this was a consequence of his repeated exclusions. It creates habits!

The day still to come

Mutambara was, as always, ebullient, raucous even. He battled to contain himself, struggled to trim himself away from the rousing exuberance of vacuous student political addresses.

At one moment he almost bolted out, well beyond his own leash. But he gave a remarkable speech, one that suggested the four years have not been in vain. That we applaud, for before he gives us great politics, he must himself scale up to greatness. It is a revolution that starts from within and, yes, he is getting somewhere.

But beyond these light-hearted points, I read something significant in his impromptu address.

He expressed wistfulness, summed up as that vital distinction between acquiring a constitution document and becoming constitutional in our governance practices.

It is an old thought, one which Biti relishes making. But, unintended, it qualifies that whole event many have lauded. And that makes the main point of this piece: the great day is still to come.

Doomed by any two-thirds
No constitution visits a people with the instant warmth of heat of a midday sun. Constitutions do take long to establish root, and to shape behaviours.

It does not matter that one is talking of citizens or governments. And in our case we made sure the document's entry into force was staggered, was by small, digestible portions, much like an old woman unsure of the grinding powers of her scattered, brownish teeth.

The document will have to be administered into our body-politic by phases, lest we are vitiated. We have portions that came into force on publication day, which was the same as assenting day.

Then we have those portions which shall come into force when the next president is sworn in.

Another way of looking at it is that the old Lancaster document is still with us - well, portions of it - until we have the next president. I don't know whether this is expediency or nostalgia.

Or mistrust of what we have got? It is a curious way of cheering a much-awaited document.

The same way that some consensually agreed to changes never quite made it, even after the tidying up. The same way that we already sought to amend the document before it became one.

And all these gestures, more accurately figures of constitutional speech, presage one thing: any party which wins power will seek to amend the document within its first 100 days! This is why all parties, regardless of their support status, are seeking more than two-thirds majority.

We have in place the irony of the epoch: only a moderate win will guarantee that the new constitution survives unamended. Any outright win dooms it, the same way that Lancaster House document was doomed by inclusivity.

This perforates all those flatulent words around the assenting of the document, does this not?

A bad dog by a bad owner's name
Why do parties so anxious to reform things accede to the extension of the Lancaster document? Was Lancaster really a constitutional abomination?

If so why this longevity when there is already an alternative? Why the retention of a good part of its provisions? And the drift of criticism of Lancaster was largely numerical.

The document had to be discarded because it had been amended nineteen times! But in the number of amendments was an admission that the Lancaster document had been killed nineteen times? What then was at issue?

Well, there was a whole constituency that needed an illusion of change. And the whole drift towards constitutional reforms dwelt on criticism of select statutes: AIPPA, Posa, Evidence Act, etc, etc. I will just isolate one, AIPPA.

How come in the so-called home-grown constitution the language of AIPPA is retained? How do you condemn AIPPA against a constitutional clause that comes by the its name, that acknowledges the need for, and enshrines the ethos of derogation? Whereto media reforms?

Give a dog the same name, and you keep it!

Or much worse, what passes for security sector reforms when the new constitution already criminalises political statements from serving members of the security establishment? The new document makes the cry for reforms nothing more than political rallying points devoid of any meaning.

Whereto GPA?
Let me get to another missed yet key outcome of the assenting exercise. No one in the media has raised the issue of GPA. What becomes of it in the wake of a new constitution, never mind the document's segmented entry? What becomes of the GPA, that mantra of the MDC formations?

In celebrating the new constitution, have they knocked out a key verb without which no political sentence or sense can be constructed?

Or does it remain alive until after a new government is sworn in? Can it be a reference point anymore, a petitioning premise, in the case of the two MDC formations?

Let me bring the question closer home: does the President need to consult the Prime Minister on anything at all after publication date?

Including on election dates? The Prime Minister was fond of hammering the point that the GPA was appended to the old constitution. What does this mean now that the old constitution is gone?

Naturally it means the GPA is gone with it!
We have a new constitutional dispensation which has superseded the old, including its newest, inclusive patch, the GPA. Is anyone out there alive to this and its implications? The Shona have a very good saying: don't be in a hurry to cheer the village witchdoctor; he might end up convicting your own mother!

Of course knowing the President, I see him holding this devastating outcome in abeyance, choosing instead to proceed along the path of consultation, as opposed to that of diktat.

But let the succeeding legal position be known. And respected. The two MDCs have denied themselves a key verb.

Let them not indulge in full sentences they can't construct anymore.



Source - zimpapers
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