11 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Courting Donors Not Commendable


We are encouraged by the move taken by the three parties to the inclusive Government to take the draft Constitution to the people, explaining the contents so that the people make informed decisions at the referendum.

We are even more encouraged by the manner in which the parties embarked on simultaneous campaigns to acquaint their supporters with the contents of the draft.

Its vital that the people audit the draft against the input they gave during the outreach and should the contents be at variance with what they said, they should reject the document. It will be a sad day for electoral democracy if a highly literate nation like ours goes to the booths with a herd mentality.

To this end we hail the three main political parties; Zanu-PF, MDC-T and the MDC for going to the people for a verdict, for the people should be the final arbiters in how they wish to be governed.

A national constitution provides a framework for such governance as it is essentially a crystallisation of the aspirations of the people of a self-governing territory. Therein they define their aspirations, ethos, rights and their derogation or otherwise and how they would like to choose and be governed by their elected representatives.

The nation-building process naturally begins with the articulation of the national interests that should be captured in the preamble of the constitution and run through every chapter.

The constitution should, thus, define the national vision and map the various strategies that will help attain the vision. And in all this outsiders should not have any role to play in such a sensitive exercise. If the draft is silent on these issues, then it should not see the light of day. We are, however, concerned by reports that Government is approaching donors, bowl in hand, to finance the referendum and harmonised elections.

We should be able to run these on our own budgets, failing which we should cut costs so that we keep outsiders out.

We have said it before, and we reiterate, we do not see the need for a nationwide referendum if the three parties in Government are urging supporters to vote "Yes". We can forego that costly process which is expected to gobble up to US$80million by getting legislators to endorse the draft on behalf of their constituencies.

We can then just focus on raising money for the harmonised elections. We open the doors to external influence the moment we go begging outsiders bowl in hand. This is where we got it wrong in the first place when we roped in outsiders like the UNDP, a South African lawyer, the EU and some Nordic countries during the outreach and drafting stages.

They all ended up thinking they were stakeholders in our national process, a process meant to lay the foundation for nation-building.

Competing interests prolonged to four years a process that should have taken no more than 18months.

We are, however, encouraged by pronouncements made by the three parties in Government that they are committed to bringing finality to the long-drawn constitution-making process.

It is high time we went for elections to give the people a government that pulls in one direction.

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