25 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Draft Fails On Deliverables

editorial

WHAT is remarkable about the draft constitution is its failure to address democratic norms while the country yearns for the peace and prosperity such norms would deliver.

A lot of hard work remains as Zimbabwe labours with a heavy democratic deficit. Essentially, the whole process has been about getting the former ruling party to agree to what anywhere else in the region would be regarded as elementary reforms.

The country, for instance, has had to watch as the public media is abused for the partisan interests of a discredited clique of electoral losers.

Two radio stations are all the state has conceded in virtually four years since the formation of the unity government and they are far from independent. In the absence of a diverse broadcasting environment and given the state's manipulation of vast swathes of the print media, voters face difficulties making informed choices at the polls.

This is in direct conflict with the Grand Baie terms crafted by Sadc that require popular participation in the electoral process. The authorities have in some cases prevented MDC-T from holding rallies on spurious grounds while those of the former ruling party receive automatic approval.

Similarly, the failure to repeal laws such as Posa, Aippa and the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act leaves civil society vulnerable to the depredations of a hostile state. Civic activists are unable to exercise their right to freedom of assembly and speech.

Put simply the new constitution fails to address the fundamental issues which led to conflict in 2008 and which the GPA was supposed to resolve.

Will the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, for example, perform its intended role as an independent supervisory body or will it remain open to political manipulation? What role will the Registrar-General play given his declared attachment to Zanu PF in the past? These are fundamental issues that have not been fully addressed.

MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai seems to have got cold feet on the issue of security reform.

Given the public statements by generals and others in the security matrix, one would have thought reform in this sector was essential. Tsvangirai appears to have accepted he will not get a separate head of the National Prosecuting Authority to sit alongside the Attorney-General. At least not for another seven years. And there has been no immediate progress on the issue of a constitutional court which played such an important role in the democratic transformation of South Africa.

The MDC-T has self-evidently given away too much. What happened to the GPA? The whole purpose of the negotiations around a new constitution was to establish the basics of a democratic society.

That doesn't seem to have happened.

Instead, the MDC-T has nodded through burning issues on the confident expectation they will win the next election. That can only be put down to naivety, and a dangerous naivety at that. Tsvangirai is riding a tiger and thinks the only answer to its rumbling stomach is to feed it.

We shall soon see the folly of that policy!

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