Following reports that the National Constitutional Assembly will begin a NO VOTE campaign against any draft constitution from the parliamentary committee, SW Radio Africa journalist Lance Guma speaks to NCA chairman Dr Lovemore Madhuku. Should the NCA not wait to see the draft first? Will rejecting the draft not leave us with the current defective Lancaster House constitution as happened in 2000?
Interview broadcast 14 October 2010
Lance Guma: Hello Zimbabwe and welcome to Behind the Headlines. Now this week, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly Dr Lovemore Madhuku was quoted as saying the NCA is beginning to mobilise for a ‘no’ vote campaign starting next week Monday. So what we’ve decided to do is get the NCA chairperson Dr Madhuku onto the programme and discuss these reports in detail. Va Madhuku thank you for joining us.
Lovemore Madhuku: OK thank you very much for inviting me to the programme.
Guma: Now let’s start off with what you are planning next week. What is this?
Madhuku: What we are planning next week is not very different from what we’ve been doing in the past ten years – we are planning to be going into various communities in the country, various places and talk to people about the constitutional reform process.
We will be discussing with people the state of affairs with the current constitution making process but with a clear message that this process has failed as we had indicated before so the way forward must be to stop or disband the COPAC process. The politicians would obviously want to continue with the process and that we must be prepared to vote against any document coming out of the process.
So really we are meeting up with the members of the public but at the same time preparing them to vote ‘no’ should the politicians go ahead with the referendum on the draft coming out of this process.
Guma: Now some will say to you why don’t you wait for the draft to come out before taking a position to reject something that you have not seen?
Madhuku: I think that it is not necessary to wait to see the draft. The position of the NCA is that a constitution must never be imposed by politicians. A constitution must come genuinely from the people so already at this stage, as we speak today, there’s been no genuine input from people, the process has been driven from top down and so it is clear that its not about whether they produce a very good constitution or what people think you can.
You can always write a constitution from your bedroom but if you were to write, if you were to tell us that you were writing a constitution from your bedroom and you are discussing it with your wife but you must wait and see whether it is a good constitution or not, for us we will not wait.
Once the methods of trying to draft a constitution is wrong, we will not wait for the product. That product is itself wrong by virtue of the process. So even as we are going on, it is clear to us that when the time comes (inaudible)….there’s no need to wait.
Guma: Now I’ve spoken to several politicians in COPAC and they’ve thrown similar allegations at the NCA saying what makes the NCA people driven if our process composed of members of parliament can be described as not people driven by the NCA?
Madhuku: I think those politicians you are speaking to do not understand the role of the NCA. The NCA is not there to write a constitution so it is nonsensical to want to characterise the NCA as either people driven or not people driven.
The NCA is a group of views by Zimbabweans, it is a group of Zimbabweans who have a particular view and are insisting on that view. So its not about WE imposing anything, the NCA believe that a good constitution can only come from a process which is led by an independent commission and that is the message we are spreading across.
That’s the message we’ll be going out with to the people, we will engage people. We are not there to write a constitution for Zimbabweans. So I think it is completely misunderstanding the role of the NCA to seek to want to equate the NCA with the politicians.
We are just saying to the politicians it is not your role to be writing a constitution or even to lead the process. Your role is to facilitate the appointment of an independent commission which will be genuinely engaged in getting a new constitution for the country.
Guma: Now if you are opposed to the current process as currently either constituted or in the way they are working, what is your alternative? Can you explain this clearly for people so that they can understand the difference between what you are suggesting and what is currently happening?
Madhuku: Thank you very much for that, I shall explain clearly. What is currently happening is that the committee which is going around, which is leading the process of gathering the opinions of the people is made up of politicians from all three political parties.
And that committee behaves in accordance with the wishes of the political parties that have members there so it currently has a ZANU PF, MDC-T and MDC-M element and everything they are doing will be driven by political parties.
But what we are suggesting, what we are proposing as an alternative comes from the premise that Zimbabwe is not about three political parties. Zimbabwe is about its people, we should not (inaudible) political parties. Political parties come and go.
Today you have a ZANU PF, tomorrow there’s another party, today there’s MDC tomorrow there’s another party so it is wrong to want to organise people along political lines. When you are writing a constitution you must seek to organise people as people, without putting them in categories.
So we are proposing that there be a commission which is chaired not by a politician but by an independent person. We would prefer a judge of the High Court or Supreme Court or a former judge of the High Court or Supreme Court. What we have seen with even ZEC which is chaired by (Justice) Mutambanengwe, the one that they have just put in place.
We still want something similar and at commission the chairperson must be an independent person and our preference is a judge. If we can’t get a judge you can get a man of integrity from the church, a member of the clergy.
Then the members of that commission must be drawn from Zimbabweans of all walks of life so you have trade unionists there, you have legal people there, you have academics there, you have members of the media there, you have some political party people there but the commission, this should be made up of quite a number of people, it can be a hundred, it can be two hundred people but these people must be brought together not on the basis of which party they represent but on the basis of walks of life that they are coming from and that is a very big difference from COPAC.
COPAC is just three political parties and other parties are not there. Then once you have this commission it does not, it should not operate on the basis of outreaches on the nature that we have seen, you organise, we will be coming to this place at such an hour.
The Commission must operate on a permanent basis, on a daily basis, it can just come tomorrow, knock at the door and say we are from the commission today we think if you have 30 minutes or an hour, we want to hear what you think as a family about the issues to do with the constitution.
The next day they go to a church, they go to people where they are at their own time then they of course have outreach of this nature because it will not depend on the fact that if you are not there you are done, you are finished, you are not going to be giving input.
So even the methodology of getting the views of the people will be different because the commission will also work from existing drafts, it will go to the university, it will go high schools, it will go to the colleges, it will go to women’s clubs as I’ve indicated – now what is COPAC doing?
COPAC organises meetings – and says there will be a meeting at Chitungwiza hall at 9am on this day and the next day that meeting has been postponed, the next day that meeting has been postponed and so on and then you never have the meeting. People change. If you are attending a funeral when COPAC is doing its visitation that’s the end of the matter but with an independent commission we will give it a space of like six months or whatever more depending on what discussion is.
They will be able to come to people during the evening even if you are waiting for the body to arrive, this guy from the commission will just be sitting there as one of you, talking to people and so on. That’s what we mean by a people driven process.
Guma: Now several weeks ago I hosted a debate between NCA’s spokesperson Madock Chivasa and Pedzisai Ruhanya from the Crisis Coalition in Zimbabwe and we got into a debate over how this process should have been constituted with of course Mr Chivasa stating the same position that you are stating right now but Ruhanya put forward an interesting question which I would like to pose to you.
His argument was that even if this process was led by God, ZANU PF would have still disrupted it so is that not what should have been addressed? This culture of impunity where ZANU PF does as it pleases in terms of violence. Is that not what is the biggest threat to constitution making?
Madhuku: I think for a start this approach where people look at ZANU PF versus the rest of the people is not the kind of Zimbabwe that we want to create. It’s still a mistaken assumption that only ZANU PF is to blame for the kind of problems we have in terms of the constitution making process.
If the process was led by God then obviously there would be no violence. God is more powerful than ZANU PF so I think that remains beside the point. If you have an independent commission the process would not be subject to violence for the very simple reason that the first task of an independent commission is to plan how to go around violence, how to go around ZANU PF violence if that is what is preferred in terms of talking about it.
But with the COPAC process you had ZANU PF at the forefront of being part and parcel of the violence with you as you were organising everything. If you have an independent commission it will have to start from the premise that how do you go about violence. I’m sure one of the things they will agree to do they will not do the outreach programme in some areas in the way of these open ended public meetings.
You might do door to door visitations which is what independent commissions do, they might find other ways of engaging the public and it’s not a one day affair so you will be able to get to people in their various communities and in some aspect go to them yourself.
You go to the church during..(inaudible) and you ask for one hour, two hours to talk to the people, you go to a club and talk to them, you go to universities, you go to colleges, you go to your workplaces, this is the scope of an independent commission running a process which is so well organised and so sophisticated that violence does not make sense.
If you go to a workplace where workers don’t identify themselves on the basis of being ZANU PF or not ZANU PF you would be able to talk to them. If you go to a club where people are just meeting for a different purpose, even when you are at a funeral, you are sitting there, you are waiting for the body to arrive and so on, you could debating and gauge what the mood of the people is.
We are not talking about new things here. In South Africa there was a process which did not necessarily require public outreach meetings everywhere, it is a question of saying well if I go to the beer hall then I can talk to those people, if I go everywhere so it’s clear that an independent commission would not be subjected to violence.
Those who believe that violence would come anyway, they are I think thinking in a kind of a narrow manner where they think that the constitution making process will have to be done exactly the way COPAC was trying to organise. Not at all.
Guma: Now there was some suggestion that instead of having this outreach, what this group should have done was to look at the various constitutions that have been drafted so far, the Chidyausiku one, the NCA draft, the one the MDC put forward, the Kariba draft and any other drafts that have been put forward by different groups and pick out the best bits from that. What’s your response to that?
Madhuku: What is clear is that for a new constitution here in this country it must be people driven. Any process that you embark on must be legitimate, must involve people, must ensure that at the end the genuine views of the people are captured.
If you just sit there and get the draft and start writing something just from reading the draft that won’t be people driven. But if you start from the draft, get a draft and then get to the people on the basis of that draft that’s a different matter.
Or you start by talking to the people about how to handle draft and do it in a non-partisan manner anything is possible but what is not acceptable is where you just write a constitution from reading various documents from your office and say now this is the new constitution.
So the processes will have to be determined by continuing to engage people and finding out how, ultimately you cannot avoid discussing with people over a considerable period.
Guma: Now there’s the often repeated argument or fears expressed that like you successfully as the NCA campaigned against the Chidyausiku draft in 2000, some quarters argue that that left us by default with the current defective Lancaster House constitution so if you are planning a similar ‘no’ vote campaign does that not lead us up the same garden path?
Madhuku: I think it is also a wrong notion to think that if we reject a constitution that is being suggested by the current process or any process which is not people driven we are going back to Lancaster. If you get a bad document you cannot then say that you are better off with a bad document as long as that bad document is not Lancaster House.
We are not opposed to Lancaster House as Lancaster House, we are opposed to an undemocratic constitution. So if you have various forms of undemocratic constitutions, there is no point in accepting them, it doesn’t make sense to move from one to the other.
So the issue is not about going back, we will always be where we are namely that we are governed by an undemocratic constitution. If you put forward to us another version of an undemocratic constitution you’ll expect that we will reject it and we will reject as many undemocratic constitutions as are presented to us.
So we can go through the next 100 referendums as long as those we will vote ‘no’ if what we are being asked to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to is an undemocratic constitution. It’s very simple. The next phase if we get another ‘no’ vote this time around I can assure you that that is the quickest way to a democratic constitution.
I don’t think any other politician will try again. This time we’ve had to get this second because the constitution is just something we have forgotten what we did and then we can go around and play around with that.
Guma: Now the tremendous success that you achieved in rejecting the 2000 draft was mainly because of the alliance that was there between the NCA, MDC and other groups, the MDC is now in government and some are saying without the MDC it will be hard for you to achieve the ‘no’ vote that you’ll be campaigning for.
Madhuku: The tremendous success the way you are describing it which we got in 2000 was achieved not because of the MDC alliance or the NCA alliance with other civic groups. It was achieved because we had a genuine cause. People believed that it was not appropriate to get the kind of constitution that we had.
Of course some people were, there were many people who were on the same side arguing that point. Even if the NCA were to go it alone, as long as the NCA is opposing an undemocratic constitution they’ll get the support of the people here so it’s completely irrelevant that the MDC is in government.
If the MDC in government supports an undemocratic constitution they will realise that people are not that stupid. Is it being suggested that the MDC or anyone else can sell anything to the people even if something that is poisonous to the people they will accept because it is coming from the MDC.
That’s a very wrong, in fact a very wrong notion, that’s what we’ve been fighting against. People will not vote because someone says vote in a given way. They know to vote in a given way because they believe that is the best way to go and for us, all we’ll be saying to the people is here is an undemocratic constitution, you are being asked to endorse it to replace another undemocratic constitution.
You have a right surely to say no to that kind of abuse, vote ‘no’ and people will do that. In fact we are better off campaigning for the ‘no’ vote on our own than with the support of people who don’t understand why we are doing it. We want quality votes and the only person who can vote ‘no’ is a person who understands why they are voting ‘no’ and I think we have enough people in this country who understand that.
Guma: But isn’t the problem Dr Madhuku the fact that in terms of our political culture people tend to wait for a signal from political parties and say OK what does the party that I support, what is their position on this and follow like sheep towards a particular position? Would you not accept the reality that that is how people make decisions?
Madhuku: In fact that is the kind of thing we are fighting, the work of the NCA is to go against that. We are educating the public not to go that route. I can assure you that we are building a Zimbabwe which we can be proud of, a Zimbabwe where people think about issues and not about personalities and come the referendum we have an excellent opportunity for Zimbabweans to reach that level of development where they don’t look at issues on the basis of what politicians say but look at issues on the basis of what their interests are and that is what we are going to be doing. The NCA works very hard to achieve that and I’ve no doubt that we will succeed.
Guma: That is the NCA chairperson Dr Lovemore Madhuku joining us on Behind the Headlines. Dr Madhuku thank you so much for your time.
Madhuku: Thank you once again for an interesting discussion.
SW Radio Africa is Zimbabwe’s Independent Voice and broadcasts on Short Wave 4880 KHz in the 60m band.
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