The Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace (CCJP – national office), Heads of Denominations (an inter-church body which includes ZCBC) and the Evangelical Alliance, all put out statements urging people to vote YES at he recent referendum for the Draft Constitution. The Zimbabwean Catholic Bishops (ZCBC) and the Bishops of Southern Africa (nine countries of IMBISA) as such did not make such a recommendation.
Personally, I think the Church should not tell people how to vote unless there is a very serious reason. Especially this constitutional vote should have been left to the people themselves to decide. There were good reasons to vote YES, but equally there were good reasons also to vote NO. The new Constitution limits the terms which the President may serve to two terms of five years each. That is progress. –The power of the President could be said was the most important issue. — Human rights are all there and, it is hoped, will be upheld by the Constitutional Court (still to be established). Citizenship is better defined and safe-guarded than in existing legislation. Humam dignity, the right to life and personal liberty are clearly expressed. Last but not least the Preamble implores “the guidance and support of Almighty God”.
But there were also serious deficiencies in the process of drafting this Constitution and in the fundamental law eventually produced. Many citizens were not really free to express their opinions regarding the Constitution, and the time they had to study the draft before making up their minds about voting for or against was much too short.
The President has still enormous powers. He appoints the members of all important Commissions. All on his own, he may declare war as well as a state of emergency. He has great powers even in Parliament, and Parliament does not limit his powers. Even though the “separation of powers” is said to be one of the basic principles of governance in Zimbabwe.
The death penalty has not been completely abolished, which sems to contradict the right to life. In this day and age the state just should not have the right to take life. Far too often in today’s world the state itself is guilty of murder and random killings. Unborn life, as well as the mother’s, should be fully protected.
Parliament (lower house and senate) is much too large. Zimbabwe cannot afford the enormous expence.
In order to establish a democratic culture, it would have been good if all citizens had cast their votes at this Referendum. It is regrettable that only 55 % did so. However, I have sympathy with citizens who wanted to express their displeasure with the entire constitutional process by abstaining from voting.
Regardless of whether we voted or not, voted YES or NO, we, all of us, have to be very watchful to see if this Constitution will be honoured and translated into action. For instance, civil servants, soldiers and police are required to remain politically neutral and non-partisan. Well and good. But in practice, until this very moment, police takes “political” orders and disregards court orders with impunity. This must stop. Or else we will know that drafting, and voting for, this Consttituion was a waste of time.