More than ever we are learning that good government is not an optional extra – it’s central to the task of administering the world in which we live. Bad government is bad for everyone except a small minority who may stand to benefit from the concentration of power and patronage.
As Churchill said once, democracy may not be perfect, but in a fragile, decadent world, it is the best option available to us. One might say the same about markets – never perfect, but always better than the alternatives. The Bible got it right – money is usually the root of all evil!
These factors together make for a very lethal mix, so lethal that it can kill almost any country if we do not manage them and get the various controls and counter measures in place. Zimbabwe is a prime example of a country whose economy has been destroyed by bad government and money and power.
How do we stop this ever happening again? I guess it starts with the Constitution. The American founding fathers got it right when they sat down and worked out a constitution for the United States . I think they managed to create a sound constitution because they had set themselves clear guiding principles.
They recognised the depravity and fallen character of man, while accepting mankind has great potential. They determined to spread political and administrative power equally among the three branches of the Federal Government. They accepted the supremacy of the law over the players in the Federal Government and ensured the executive would be accountable to an elected House of Representatives and Senate. They provided for a powerful, directly elected President who would be head of Government but accountable to the Elected Assembly.
We are about to go through the same process as a country with the raw wounds of bad government still smarting. It is important we get it right this time even if we have to adjust matters later on in the light of on going experience.
I have been giving this matter some considerable thought in recent weeks, spurred perhaps by the fact that we, the people, are about to be consulted on this vital issue. I am going to take a risk and lay out here what I think are the key issues for us as a nation going into this debate.
Firstly I think that the principle of a clear separation of power is a vital ingredient in this mix. At present we have no such separation – the Judiciary is too reliant and subservient to the Executive and there is no separation between the Executive and Parliament. We need to secure both principles in our new Constitutional dispensation. What I would go for is the American system where we would have a strong directly elected President. But I would get him or her to appoint a small (maximum 20) Cabinet, drawn from our whole society.
I would then provide for a single chamber House of Assembly (I think the Senate is a waste of money and time and adds little to the process of government), with perhaps 200 elected Members of Parliament. These I would select on a Party list, proportional representation basis so that we can ensure 50/50 gender balance at all times. If any MP is selected to go into the Cabinet, then the Party holding that post would replace them maintaining the electoral and gender balance. Each Province would contribute 20 per cent of its national lists to ensure national coverage.
I would divide the country up into 5 Provinces with new boundaries and designed to hold 20 per cent of the population each. Each Province would have its own House of Elected representatives comprising all elected officials in both local and central government drawn from the Province. This Provincial House of Assembly would elect an executive Committee reflecting the composition of the Cabinet and designed to allow the Provincial Executive Committees to monitor and guide national policy and priorities.
In respect to the need to entrench the rule of law, I would strengthen the independence of the Judiciary, allow judicial salaries and conditions of employment to be determined independently and paid direct from the Exchequer. I would give the Judiciary the responsibility of enforcing the Constitution in all respects and for ensuring that the fundamentals of the law are applied to all who live and work in Zimbabwe without preference. I would ensure that contract law and basic rights over property are fully enforced and respected.
In my view, local government is very important in terms of the delivery of basic services and ensuring quality of life for all. I would therefore entrench local government in the constitution and thereby protect its elected representatives from interference from Central Government. I happen to believe that people should be responsible for managing the social institutions that deliver services to the people who pay for them. Local Authorities should be made responsible for this with Central Government proving a policy framework, guidance and funding.
Eventually we are going to have to establish our own currency and when we do, we will need a strong, independent Reserve Bank to manage the currency and our Banking system. Because the temptation will always exist for Government to interfere with this essential function, perhaps this should also be made a constitutional issue.
Many friends are asking me about the issue of faith and the making of a new Constitution. In my own view there is no such thing as a "Christian Nation" or even a "Nation under God". Faith is a personal issue and I think it should be left to each individual to seek their own way in this area of life. But that said, I would like to see the supremacy of God reflected in the preamble as all politicians need to know that one day, no matter who they are, they will face God and be judged for what they did while they were in positions of responsibility.
Jacob Zuma is in town, judging from the body language I have seen so far, Mugabe has had quite a tough time – I hope that is true as we have been let down by regional leaders so often in the past and there is little belief that this time round will be any different.
Eddie Cross is MP for Bulawayo South and the MDC’s policy coordinator