The discussions, on various scenarios, are relating to the issues of electoral laws and systems and constitutional making processes in some African countries; Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Sudan, Southern Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and the case of Zimbabwe.
I found the recent case of Uganda almost similar to that of Zimbabwe, in that as in the latter; President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recently made pronouncements to the effect that there is no need to make major changes to the country’s electoral laws by stating that even the opposition leader was present when those electoral laws were coined.
Sounds like Robert Mugabe talking to the Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC) about the Kariba draft which was coined by the two culprits.
The only difference is that Zimbabwe so far is dealing with the constitution making process, while Uganda is dealing with electoral laws. However, the two are very much linked. Museveni is arguing that not much needs to be changed, save for a few amendments to an already existing legal instrument. In the same vein, Mugabe is suggesting that what they agreed on with the MDC leading to the birth of the Kariba draft must remain with only a few amendments. In Uganda, as expected, President Museveni is asking everyone to show cause why there should be a complete overhaul of the system. This was aptly captured in his recent letter to the opposition leader saying;
"You talk of amending the Electoral Law. Amend it in order to achieve what? You were there when we reformed the UPC electoral laws – introducing one ballot box, one ballot paper, counting and announcing results immediately after counting, etc. The only remaining point is computerising the voters’ register in order to stop the opposition from engaging in multiple registration of voters which they have been doing in Kampala, the North and other areas. Which other electoral reforms are you talking about?"
However, the point that President Museveni missed is that, in the same way as he is trying to stop the opposition from engaging in what he calls, ‘multiple registration of voters’, by calling for electoral reforms the opposition also wishes to stop him from rigging the elections and engaging in other nefarious activities. We may even add that in this case the opposition believes that by causing electoral reforms they may finally find the key to the president’s exit door.
Further, the above statement by President Museveni; bullish and emphatic as it sounds, clearly seals the call for the cause of the ordinary masses to at least manage the process of fashioning the democracy they want. This is the nature with most African states, when the head of state makes a statement it is taken as some kind of national policy, particularly by some serious sycophants who spend their time around the leader chanting incorrigible and ironically vacuous slogans. That also is the scenario of Zimbabwe, a state where in all respects comradeship has caused so much disillusionment; all as a result of the sycophants who usually surround political leaders.
Zimbabwe’s constitution making process is also mired by a lot of controversies; the civil society as usual is part of the confusion. This confusion and failure to speak with one voice makes it very difficult for the civil society to even claim that the resolutions of a divided Constitutional Convention, recently held, have a binding effect on all other members of the civil society. Further, whoever argues that way must also know that their views are not representative of every civil society organisation in Zimbabwe. However, it is the nature with most Zimbabweans, to always claim to be speaking on behalf of everybody, even when they know that whatever they are saying is not representative of everyone. This position is very common with a number of civil society organisations whose task has always been to ‘way-lay’ donor funding. These organisations even have very strong mechanisms for detecting funding and views of the donors. This is exactly what the donor has done to the otherwise noble cause of the civil society in Zimbabwe; changing it to some kind of democracy industry.
Again, the divided calls by the civil society serve to show the discord with which Zimbabweans speak and sing on a very important issue such as this one of Constitution making.
Zimbabwe is experiencing the unfolding of two very interesting scenarios, all of them being pushed by the politicians; ZANU PF & MDC, with the CSOs as usual making money out of noise making through the democracy industry and, of course, by being mere reactionaries. Imagine it, they even hold Conventions and Conferences in very opulent environments (at Sheraton Hotel) to discuss problems of a country that is in dire poverty when the membership on the ground is hungry. Does that alone not smack of the same profligacy displayed by the same Parliamentarians who claim to be standing for the wishes of the people when they also demand US$30 000 a month, while the entire population of Civil Servants wallows in poverty through a ‘Socialist pittance’ of only US$100/month?
Isn’t that crazy? That’s Zimbabwe for you!
Following these political scenarios, we see on one hand the inclusive government wanting to create various strands of political approaches. Whichever way, if not properly understood these political strands aim at one end result; satisfying the needs of politicians. One strand is being purveyed by ZANU PF in support of the Kariba Draft, while the other is being pushed by MDC, by way of a Parliamentary Select Committee.
The political logic here is to create a façade of dissent within political ranks. Mere chicanery!
The first political strand as stated above comes through ZANU PF and appears to want to force people to embrace a draft that was agreed on by the MDC & ZANU PF in Kariba, hence the name Kariba Draft.
Everyone knows that this document is very dangerous in that it only carries the wishes of politicians. It is a product of the weird minds of politicians. Even the main parties that came up with it knew whenever they were coining it that they were stealing power and authority from the people of Zimbabwe. This they did by claiming to be coining a draft which caters for our interests, yet we know for a fact that politicians will never carry the our interests first. If anything, their interests come first, followed by that of their cabal and, of course, lastly, a concourse of sycophants.
It must be emphasized here that when this Kariba document was exposed by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and by other people and political actors like Professor Jonathan Moyo, Independent MP for Tsholotsho North, now the only opposition in Zimbabwe’s Parliament, the MDC as one of the main signatories and culprits that engineered this draft then started on another wild wave to fame by claiming that they want a process that carries the wishes of the people of Zimbabwe, yet referring to a Parliamentary Select Committee. As if they had not even participated in the drafting of the Kariba Draft in the first instance.
One wonders what goes in the mind of a politician sometimes!
MDC’s move in support of a Parliamentary Select Committee is the most scandalous process ever to take place in a country where it is common knowledge that, even the number of people who elected those Legislators falls far shorter than that of the country’s population, which is pegged at around 12,9Million by United Nations. So, this Parliamentary Select Committee claims to be representing the wishes of the people when it was voted for by a mere 2,4Million from the 5,6Million that had registered to vote by December 2007 (source IFES). This alone makes it clear that Parliament by its very nature can not be taken to be the true representative of the people’s hopes and aspirations in a country like Zimbabwe.
The second political strand is one where MDC is publicly claiming that they have the people at heart and that what ZANU PF is trying to do by pushing the Kariba draft is undemocratic.
Meanwhile it is a statement of fact that pushing the Kariba draft down our throats is undemocratic and bad, what is not said by the MDC is acknowledging that they were part of the process that produced such a document. In the same way we do not trust ZANU PF, we also can not trust them. What is even worse is that by disowning their document they are like surrogate parents whose position has always been to prevaricate and shift posts whenever the tide changes.
However, what people seem not to have grasped is that even what the MDC is pushing; a constitution making process engineered through a Parliamentary Select Committee is even more scandalous and very undemocratic. That has to be emphasized. The Parliamentary Select Committee as a serious national scandal is worse off than that of ZANU PF, of pushing the Kariba draft because at least the latter can be seen by any normal person and easily challenged. What of this sleek chicanery coming through the Parliamentary Select Committee? After all, who said legislators are wise and all knowing?
What is worse with this Parliamentary process is that it is being purveyed by wolves dressed in sheep skins. We now understand MDC’s propensity to agree with ZANU PF on a lot of things secretly, as evidenced by the birth of this Kariba Draft. We therefore have to be wary of the MDC claim that they stand for the people’s views.
It may be necessary to also understand that this is a strategy hatched by politicians to use a two pronged approach when dealing with us the people as they often refer to us as ‘a bewildered crowd?’ The idea in their strategy is to ensure that if we reject the ZANU PF approach of pushing the Kariba Draft down our throats, we will end up having to use the ‘half-a-loaf-is better-than-nothing’ situation, and end up embracing the MDC parliamentary project. Are some members of the Civil Society not already in the ‘half-a-loaf-is better-than-nothing’ mode by claiming that they have already submitted their so called resolutions to such a scandalous group of politicians?
Zimbabweans have had an opportunity to learn hard facts about the nature of politicians; that politicians are generally dreamers of, often, very wild and weird dreams that they always pass on to us, the ordinary masses, to act on the ‘national stage’, meaning some kind of a puppet theatre. It is common knowledge that only yesterday we fought side by side with Morgan Tsvangirai and the rest of the MDC elite when they were in the NCA for a people driven constitution. Today, they have even chosen to embrace a more daft approach than the one they were challenging in 1999/2000. Are these not the same people?
In this case, it is clear that our people can not and must not allow to be cheated by these two strands of political manoeuvring, as it is clear that its purveyors (MDC & ZANU PF) all have one single thread that runs through the gamut of their cause: being Politicians.
After all, it is common knowledge that Zimbabwean politicians, most of them, are Janus faced. They smile at us with one face and frown with the other. In the same way, they take away our freedoms and rights. It is even a known fact that MDC and ZANU PF parliamentarians do not hate each other, particularly when it comes to securing their stay in Parliament and, of course, where money matters are involved. If anything they can hatch a plan following the same strands I have mentioned above to ensure that if what they all want and is being pushed using ZANU PF loses, then they will still get it through the MDC door which claims to be open and ‘for the people.’
And so, in the Zimbabwean case, anyone who claims to have submitted their views to the Parliament must know that they are fooling themselves. The best for us as Zimbabweans is a people driven constitution not a half baked process. Let us have a process that is people centred and people driven.
Lastly, I wish to end by referring to Tony Leon’s book: Hopes and Fears: Reflections of a Democrat, much as I have my issues with Leon, in that book when narrating the events of the constitution making process in South Africa during CODESA, he says it is always advisable whenever people have embarked on the task of writing a constitution to embrace an oppositional outlook. He adds that, if people write a constitution as if, or when they are already in power, they are likely to produce a document that simply seeks to help them preserve and retain power and all that comes with it. Yet we all know that a constitution as the supreme law of the land defines parameters within which politicians as people that we do not trust have to lead us, and not rule us. It even helps us to curb their excesses. So why grant them even the privilege to own the constitution making process when they are leading us, after all, we know they always temper with the end product? Is Museveni’s case not a lesson to us? It is almost obvious, Zimbabwean politicians are enjoying some modicum of power so far, and so, they may want to use this constitution making process to further entrench themselves. That move must be opposed as it is a lost constitutional cause. What Zimbabweans should aim for is a document that will last for a while before it is bastardised by politicians through amendments.
Brilliant Mhlanga is an academic and a human rights activist from the National University of Science and Technology (NUST), Zimbabwe, he is currently a Doctoral Researcher at the University of Westminster, London