On the 28th of September 2013, a black cloud overshadowed Zimbabwe, as the last standing constitutional watchdog; the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) relinquished its mandate and turned into a fully-fledged political party.
by Takudzwanashe Mundenga
The civil society ought to be apolitical and non-partisan, yet pressing for political reforms. Lobby and advocacy groups are fashioned to limit the arbitrary powers of the state. What the National Constitutional Assembly chairperson, Professor Lovemore Madhuku has exhibited us barely two years ago, is the best example of leadership failure. It shows his organisation had long been clandestinely pushing for regime change rather than just political improvements.
Regrettably, the feat was not successful as anticipated. The embryonic political party capsized before it even navigated the tumultuous waters. Strategic members like Blessing Vava and Takura Zhangazha left the party alluding to leadership squabbles and conflict of ideology, even though it was officially denied by the Party Spokesperson, Madock Chivasa.
Apparently, we are breathing in a bifurcated political space, where the word democracy only appear in theory and disappear in practice. Devoid of appropriate checks and balances of the state, the breach of constitution, legal responsibility and abuse of power are inevitable. For this very purpose, we have a Public Protector in South Africa and manifold anti-corruption committees across the continent.
Of course, we have the doctrine of Separation of Powers proposed by the French philosopher, Baron de Montesquieu in our respective countries. The doctrine perceives the state as a trinity of the Executive, Legislature and Judiciary, each pursuing its obligation independently without overlapping into the undertakings of another.
Judicial independence is pertinent in the democratic ethos in order to maintain the equality of all citizens before the law, hence constitutionalism. If the truth be interrogated, the impartiality of the judiciary is still a mirage in Africa. In most cases, it is the Executive President who appoints both the Chief Justice and the Attorney-General thereby politicizing the outcome of the courts.
The same Head of State can refuse to be liable to the parliament, for instance, President Jacob Zuma excused himself from being questioned by the august House in the twilight of 2014, saying most of the legislators were behaving like kids. By so doing, the prez undermined parliamentary democracy.
The complicated part of state submissive institutions is subjectivity due to political interference. They can be manipulated by the influential to implicate the innocent as well as to spare the criminal. As a result, due to this standpoint they cannot be trusted; nonetheless, the therapy is therefore making use of an apolitical and non-partisan organisation that is interest-driven, voluntary, and non-profit making to push the government towards democratization and constitutionalism.
In Zimbabwe, we have witnessed the NCA as a pro-democracy group, pursuing a constitutional mandate since the nascent of the millennium up until the previous elections in 2013. It challenged the constitutional omissions of the state and alerted the general public that there was need to write a new home-grown constitution to replace the bastardized Lancaster Constitution devised at Independence and amended 19 times in 33 years. The civil society organization even displayed the possibility by writing the popular NCA Draft Constitution in 2000, also known as the “Green Page”.
The NCA stimulated the civil society and the general electorate to reject the constitutional provisions of the Constitutional Commission of Zimbabwe (CCZ) Draft that consolidated excessive executive powers that were booking for a Machiavellian President in the 2000 National Referendum, citing that it was neither democratic nor people-driven.
The organisation received a universal applause as the majority of Zimbabweans voted No to the state-led constitution-making exercise and for the first time in history, it dawned upon our intelligence that the ZANU PF-led government can be challenged and defeated.
Ever since the NCA left the platform, various undemocratic tendencies and anti-people laws that include the parliament, setting the legal consent age at 12, introduction of Grade 7 exam fees and different forms of taxation has been witnessed. I will not even mention what will happen from now, when ZANU PF secured all the seats that formerly belong to the opposition in the recent by-elections, adding to its two-third of majority.
It is an undeniable duty of the civil society to groom future political leaders and not to graduate into political parties. It is vividly clear that the NCA having failed to groom leaders, the whole admin of the constitutional lobby group decided to plunge into precipice of struggle for power.
Spilt salt is never gathered, the bottom line is our country need a constitutional watchdog to oversee the tenets of constitutionalism and the respect for the rule of law.
Takudzwanashe Mundenga is a resident political and social analyst based in Zimbabwe. He runs this column weekly. For feedback and comments please feel free to write him on [email protected]