Zimbabwe has the best constitution in the world, but it lacks constitutionalism
Zimbabwe has one of the best constitutions in Africa, if not in the whole world, it incorporates the bill of rights, was written by the people, but is finding itself in constitutional conflicts because of lack of the political will of those in power in properly implementing it for fear of losing power- lawyers say.
Prominent lawyer and former cabinet minister Paul Mangwana says for Zimbabwe to achieve constitutionalism, there is a need to continuously push all the pillars of the state so that office bearers learn to respect and follow the dictates of the constitution. He added that there was no plan in place to make sure laws are not in contradiction with the constitution.
“We rushed the constitution without proper transition mechanisms in place because elections were pending during that time, and because of that, we are now being faced by the mammoth task of aligning our laws with it, and this is now affecting its implementation. This is why we currently have constitutionalism debates that could not have been the case had we put proper transition mechanisms in place.
“We did identified 484 pieces of legislations that need alignment with the new constitution,” he says.
He says there is strong need for the checks and balances because the main problem has been of people in power who wanted to remain there, and are not ready to implement laws that reduce their stay in power.
He says checks and balances will help guide those in power. “For instance in the case of the current demonstrations, protesters contend that their rights to are being violated by being denied the opportunity to demonstrate, while the state argues that it is protecting the rights of those who are not protesting who could be caught in crossfire should the demonstrations be allowed to take place,” he says.
Another lawyer Tendai Biti agrees with Mangwana, and says Zimbabwe has the best constitution but it lacks constitutionalism which entails that the government when exercising its power, it has to do so within the dictates of the law.
“Those in power need to be controlled so that their use of power doesn’t violates the rights of those they are ruling, and this is the problem we have in Zimbabwe, hence there is no constitutionalism,” says Biti.
Another prominent lawyer Jessie Majome says she believes 80 percent of the new constitution is being implemented, as there is dilly dallying by ZANU PF government to rule within the dictates of the law because the constitution opposes what they want.
She went on to say she does not think President Robert Mugabe had time to read the new constitution before he signed it, she gave reference to how he attacked the judiciary and that if he had read it he shouldn’t have had done that.
“The President once said Zimbabwe has no law on dual citizenship, but if you read the constitution that bright is there. So I am made to believe that he never read it before he signed, if he had done so he could have picked it,” she said.
Dr Pedzisai Ruhanya a human rights activist says; “Despite the constitution being for both the rulers and those being ruled, it has been used to suppress the other part.”
Dr Ruhanya added that the ZANU PF government is using the same constitution to suppress any opposition be it by civic organisations or citizens. “We are being ruled by power mongers who don’t want to leave power. I think we have a bad culture developing among us, because you find that even in business those enjoying power do not want to leave, even in burial societies the top executives want to die in that position. As we strive for transition we need to make sure that we try to dismantle this culture,” he says.