Draft Constitution Guarantees Change - Biti

New draft constitution guarantees change – Biti


September 21, 2012 in Opinion

THIS is the last in a series of articles by MDC-T secretary-general and Finance minister Tendai Biti — who is a lawyer by profession — on the constitution-making process, content and output.

Report by Tendai Biti – finance minister

Devolution is reinforced by the obligation in Article 17.4 of the same which ensures that there is an equitable allocation of capital grants to provinces and that not less than 5% of the budget is allocated to the provinces.

Another important developmental issue dealt with in the constitution is the land question. While in Article 4.29 the land reform programme is made permanent, in chapter 16 of the same, the land reform programme is now democratised that all Zimbabweans, irrespective of race, tribe or colour, can be beneficiaries of the same. Thus security of tenure is now bestowed on everyone and any person in Zimbabwe has the right to own, sell, lease, hypothecate or transmit any land right.

From an economic point of view, this is critical. The constitution now allows the restoration of a private property market in Zimbabwe that will transform current agricultural land from a dead into a live asset.

Farmers will now be able to capitalise on their farms and the majority who are now farmers can sell or lease to better-equipped Zimbabweans of any race or tribe who can use this land productively. Chapter 16 thus allows this country to put a decisive full-stop on the land question.

Does it create mechanisms for state and generational succession and regeneration?

Yes. The constitution provides for harmonised elections every five years. Unlike in the present position, elections can only be held in the last 30 days of the term of office of the existing parliament. Thus no one can be taken by surprise.

In addition, by defining free and fair elections and the orderly transfer of power as a founding principle, this constitution is predicating stability and evolution of state power.

More importantly, by placing term limits on the president, securocrats and top government heads, this constitution is guaranteeing evolution. More so given that these provisions cannot be amended without a referendum and even when they are amended, they will not benefit the serving incumbent.

By providing for two running mates, the constitution is also dealing with the fundamental disease in Africa. The founding fathers of Africa, be it Siad Baare, Julius Nyerere, Jomo Kenyatta, President Robert Mugabe or Kwame Nkrumah, had and have one disease — that of predatory permanents.

The issue of running mates thus provides the basis for an orderly transition as we happily saw in Malawi, Ghana and now Ethiopia.

Where Africa’s big men had no orderly succession, the nation state hardly survived after them. Somalia, Ivory Coast and the Democratic Republic of Congo are living examples of this.

The long and short of the above is that while the Copac draft is not the best constitution Zimbabweans could have written, it represents a major starting point and a point of departure from the status quo. That is why some of us who have spent all their life fighting for a new order in Zimbabwe will support it.