Zimbabwe New Constitution: It's Just the First Step

Published on 19th March 2013

Zimbabwe can learn from Kenya: it is one thing to have a new constitutional order but the other to trust ruling elites to implement it. Kenyans have witnessed episodes of members of parliament changing laws to suit their interests at the expense of the wish of the electorates.

Zimbabweans recently cast their vote to determine their country's new constitution, a break from one that was introduced after the country's independence in 1980. The new constitution abolishes  the post of Prime Minister; ends the power sharing deal; imposes a maximum of two five-year terms for the president; strengthens the cabinet and parliament by demanding that  Presidential decrees, declarations of emergency rule or dissolutions of parliament get the approval of two-thirds of lawmakers; expands some civil rights such as Press freedom, access to information, political choice and activity, prisoners' rights and partial devolution of power to provincial councils.

The constitution remains ink on paper and powerless unless life is infused in it through respect and implementation. The fact that President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai lent their backing to the draft constitution is reason enough to ease political tensions and demand that the two respect the wishes of the electorate. The new constitution is not about ZANU PF or MDC political parties. Looking at it from such a narrow perspective clouds its importance and elicits chest thumping. The new constitution is about the collective future of the people of Zimbabwe. It is imperative that the two principals rise above forces that would wish to see the status quo remain, put the interest of the country first and implement it once it is passed.

Zimbabwe has a lot to learn from Kenya. As the implementation of Kenya's new constitution has shown in terms of hiccups, there is still a long way to go - but the journey is worth it.

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