|Parly has final say on constitution|
|Thursday, 20 September 2012 00:00|
A lot of people are not aware that the ultimate arbiter in the Constitution-making programme is Parliament and its members. In this case, it will be the House of Assembly members and the Senate. At least two thirds majority of each chamber must agree in order for the Constitution to take effect.
What does this mean? Of course, Parliament is made up of political parties that are represented by their members. At present, no political party has two thirds majority in either of the chambers.
If this is so, then all political parties represented in Parliament must agree on the form the Constitution must take. Yes, we may have a referendum to ask the people to endorse the principles of the constitution, but Parliament has the sole responsibility to put those principles into law.
The All-Stakeholders Conference shall become a mere debating forum to suggest some ideas that Parliament may adopt in drawing up the real constitution document. Members of Parliament and the Senate, will be guided by the compromises agreed to by their respective political parties.
What is amazing is that some political parties are already campaigning for a yes vote for a mere draft not the real constitutional blueprint. This may be described as jumping to conclusion before the actual document has passed through Parliament.
Be that as it may, politicians will always be politicians. They always want to seek publicity and gain an unfair advantage over each other. In a young democracy as we have in Zimbabwe, it is prudent to reflect before indulging in electioneering for its own sake.
The issue of drawing up a Constitution for Zimbabwe is of major importance than an act of scoring points. This document must layout what Zimbabwe is all about. We are lucky that no one political party has the advantage to go it alone.
Therefore a consensus has to be reached if the Constitution has to be approved by two thirds majority of members of the House of Assembly and the Senate voting separately.
The issue of by-elections is very crucial. Those constituencies that have no members of the House of Assembly and Senate will be not represented when the constitution finally reaches both houses for debate and approval.
But, the most important issue is that political parties have to work together for the benefit of the whole population of Zimbabwe. Some critics see the constitution as increasing or diminishing the powers of the presidency.
What must be at the centre of any constitutional provision is not the power, but how effectively will anyone occupying the highest office in the land will exercise his or her mandate to the people. That is the bottom line. If the president is elected by parliament or cabinet, then he or she will be answerable to those institutions.
But, an executive President, elected by the people of Zimbabwe, must be answerable to the people who elected him or her. Of course, in order to carry all the tasks of the presidency, the political party and all other Government institutions will play their part according to the provisions of the constitutions of separation of powers and responsibilities.
It must be left to Parliament to fine tune all the provisions of the constitution so that they can be passed into law. Nowhere in the world except in the Bible, are constitutional provisions cast on stone. Every nation is different, but is guided by its culture and traditions.
The ever obsession with power not responsibility will make it impossible to achieve a consensus in the drawing up of a constitution for generations to come. As has been reported endlessly by the Press and other media, the views of the people, although not cast in legal terms, are there to be used as a guideline in the constitution making exercise.
Hopefully, legislators are fully aware of these details. We elected people to represent us who are capable of independent thinking and have the interests of the people at heart. Surely, we go about already by the laws they have enacted which have, to date, not been invalidated by the courts of law.
Therefore, the people must have confidence in the Members of Parliament, they elected to serve, to pass into law constitutional provisions that will bring an end to the present Constitution.
All over the world, societies are in turmoil over constitution making exercises. Zimbabwe is not an isolation of these political upheavals. There comes a time when a nation must define itself. We are now in an era where we must define ourselves.
The task is not easy even for our Parliamentarians. The problem is that, the debate is too dominated by the Press and the media.
Distortions are bound to escalate and inflame passions of different views. Sober minds are necessary to come up with a constitution that will be acceptable to Members of Parliament.
What is marring the whole debate now is the expectation that the country will be going for elections and the notion that the coming together of political parties has not worked.
There is nowhere in the world, at present, where one party has absolute power to do as it pleases.
Everywhere, we observe parties coming together for the good of the country and its people.