Draft Constitution: a very good document

At last, the Parliamentary Committee on the Constitution (Copac) has finalised the constitution draft and given copies to the three Principals in the inclusive government. This milestone comes after much criticism of

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Copac by elements who hold the view that they should have been included in the team that was tasked with the writing of the draft constitution.

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Despite being a negotiated document, the draft constitution is a far better and more democratic document than the current Lancaster House Constitution, which been amended 19 times to suit the preferences of some people and groups of people.

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The Copac draft is certainly a very good document in relation to most aspects of a democratic constitution. It will, obviously, be criticised by some people and liked by others. The bottom line is that this is, probably, the best foundation law document that Zimbabwe has produced since the rejection of the 2000 draft that had been tampered with by some very senior people long after it had been completed.

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It is every good citizen’s hope that this time around, we will accept this document and move on to hold proper and democratic elections next year. The fact that a lot of what the people of this country said was captured in this Copac draft, mixed with a bit of “best practice” from all over the world, goes a long way to ensure a very competent foundation law.

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People with disabilities

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Section 2.14 caters for the interests of people with disabilities. It directs that State institutions and agencies must try to develop programmes for the welfare of persons with physical or mental disabilities; consider the specific requirements of persons with all forms of disability as one of the priorities in development plans; encourage the use and development of forms of communication suitable for use by persons with physical or mental disabilities; and foster social organisations aimed at improving the quality of life of persons with all forms of disability. Although Zimbabwe has done a bit for people living with disabilities to date, a lot remains to be done.

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War veterans

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Section 2.15 focuses on war veterans who must be accorded due respect, honour and recognition by all State institutions and agencies. Interestingly, war veterans are defined in the draft as those who fought in the war of liberation; those who assisted the fighters and those who were detained for political reasons during the war of liberation. This is a much broader and more inclusive definition of war veterans, which is correct.

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The draft further states, “The State must take reasonable measures, including legislative measures, for the welfare and economic empowerment of war veterans.” Some elements that have masqueraded as war veterans in the past might find these provisions less palatable than they would have liked. Some had wanted the new constitution to state categorically that war veterans shall be entitled to farms, school fees for their children, and several other benefits. Fortunately, the drafters of the document rightly felt that such details should not be reflected in the foundation law of this nation.

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Dual citizenship

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The wrangle regarding dual citizenship was finally resolved through cleverly crafting the language in such a way that to all intents and purposes, the draft constitution allows dual citizenship, particularly to Zimbabweans born outside the country, but whose parents or one of whose parents or grandparents were bona fide Zimbabweans. More interestingly, the Copac draft seeks to prevent undue statelessness by stating in Section 3.2.3, “A child found in Zimbabwe who is, or appears to be, less than 15 years of age, and whose nationality and parents are not known, is presumed to be a Zimbabwean citizen by birth.”

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Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the draft is that it makes no reference to the renouncing of foreign citizenship as a requirement for the acquisition of Zimbabwean citizenship by registration. Section 3.9 of the draft states, “Every person who, immediately before the effective date, was a Zimbabwean citizen continues to be a citizen of Zimbabwe after that date.”

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