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Where there is no vision, people perish

Referendum should not be just a yes or no vote writes Bornwell Chakaodza in his National Agenda column for the Financial Gazette.

The violence that rocked the Constitutional outreach meetings in Harare last weekend resulting in the temporary suspension of the process has prompted the above quote from the mother of all books in the world: The Bible. This quotable quote is from Proverbs 29:18.

Yes, what kind of vision are we envisaging for our country when   political parties organise people to behave like hooligans at a football match when most of us are serious about undertaking this very important task of drawing up a new national charter for Zimbabwe.

Let us not beat about the bush. The truth of the matter is that the youths or to be more precise, the thugs who engaged in violence and intimidation that marred the constitution-making process in Harare were organised by the structures of certain political parties. The bussing-in of participants to various parts of Harare was organised. We must not dodge or duck the truth.

Be that as it may, I am encouraged by the fact that in Harare more than 60 percent of the outreach meetings were successfully completed. Bulawayo was largely okay. Even in the rural areas, despite the coaching that I have referred to, some participants freely aired their own views on the various talking points. It is indeed to the credit of the teams both at COPAC Head Office in Harare and in the field that things went fairly smoothly in spite of hitches here and there.

These are serious-minded patriotic Zimbabweans who are engaging in this national exercise with the zeal to work, thoroughly and meticulously — being driven solely by national interest and not individual or party political interests. Of course, like any other human being, they have made mistakes and engaged in occasional sloppiness, but I have seen them work at close range and I know what I am talking about.

These guys have had brickbats thrown at them but they have worked tirelessly to move this process forward. This constitution-making process is a tall order and would challenge anyone — Olympic style! The same of course cannot be said of some people in the structures of a certain political parties who have been busy organising thugs to disrupt and derail this new dispensation. I have said it before and I will say it again here.

A new constitution for Zimbabwe is not about Zanu-PF or the two MDC formations constituting the inclusive government. A new constitution is about the whole nation of Zimbabwe and all her citizens regardless of race, tribe or political affiliation. It is for the people of Zimbabwe in their totality. It is for future generations, our children and our children’s children and should therefore outlive political parties and individuals.

The business of having President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in mind when answering questions in the Talking Points is totally misplaced and short sighted. For that is what has been happening the outreach meetings.

The answer to every question has been “we want the Executive President. We don’t want Prime Minister”. One or two examples will suffice “What role do you think the Commissions should play in the life of this nation? Answer: No, we don’t want Commissions, we want the Executive President. If the Commissions should be there, they should be controlled by the President.

Another question: What kind of press do you want to see? Answer: No, we don t want press, we want Executive President. If the press is to be there, it should be controlled by the President. On and on it went. Clearly, how true it is that where there is no vision, people perish. What these people who gave the answer President to every question forgot is that, when the moment comes, we all go.

God is our creator and we ultimately return to him. But countries always remain. Zimbabwe has eternity before her. I cannot over emphasise the point that what Zimbabwe needs is a new constitution that guarantees true democracy for both present and future generations by ensuring that there are effective checks and balances in the exercise of state power for good and just governance.

Of course, it is not humanly possible that a constitution can be perfect and be able to cater for every conceivable interest, hence the likelihood of amendments to the constitution in the future. A constitution is never a perfect document. It is a result of compromises and balancing all interests in a country. For example, the Constitution of the United States of America has been amended a number of times since that country’s Declaration of Independence in 1776, but the core of the original one lives on.

The point has to be made that constitution-making is an intellectual exercise. Yes, people have to be consulted but it is a far cry from attending a rally and toyi toying as if you are in an election campaign. In this outreach programme, some people are behaving as if they are already in an election mode. For heaven’s sake, this is a constitution-making process not an election campaign.

The fact of the matter is that there is a world of difference between the merits of sloganeering like people possessed by demons on one hand and intellectual demands of a constitution-making on the other. One has to look at what happened in South Africa for a way forward.

Our southern neighbour, credited with helping craft the Global Political Agreement that created our inclusive government has one of the best constitutions that any country could wish for. I am not saying here that we should copy everything in the South African Constitution hook, line and sinker.

No. All I am saying is that we should not reinvent the wheel. In any event, we have our own constitutions some in draft form notably the rejected 2000 draft constitution which had some good things in it, the NCA draft document, the Kariba draft and of course the current Lancaster House Constitution which has been amended 19 times.

We need therefore to build on our knowledge and experiences of our past. In any event, what country in the world can claim exclusive ownership of a process that is basically universal in form and content? This is the question which to me is quite fundamental.

That is why I feel very strongly that when a final draft is eventually drawn up in accordance with the enlightened wishes of the people and the subsequent placing of the draft document before the people in a referendum, it should not be a yes or no vote but a referendum that gives options. This is the best way forward.

In the event that there is a NO in the forthcoming referendum it should not lead to the total rejection of the document like we did with the 2000 draft constitution. What we should do is to weigh our options and see what is in the best interest of this beloved country Zimbabwe.