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Cathy Buckle: Who will guard the guards in Zim’s fraught Constitution

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s ruling Zanu-PF is looking to further entrench its grip on that country by mulling further changes to the country’s constitution. This time, the party wants to ensure that judges are selected by itself and don’t undergo public interviews. With elections just a year away, it seems that the Mugabe-led Zanu-PF is looking to any means to ensure its grip on power. Cathy Buckle, in this beautifully written piece, contemplates the latest political developments in that country. – Gareth van Zyl

By Cathy Buckle*

Dear Family and Friends,

I am writing this letter with the Constitution of Zimbabwe open in front of me. Outside on the road I can hear a man calling out: “kunama poto” (fixing pots) as he walks around the neighbourhood.

Cathy Buckle’s Twitter profile picture

A young man, in his late twenties, he has a small blue and grey rucksack on his back and carries a gas welder everywhere he goes. This young man’s skill is fixing holes in cooking pots: 20 US cents for welding a small hole; 50 cents for a bigger hole and $1.50 for a broken handle.

I page through the Constitution and for a long time get stuck on the first half of the first sentence in the Preamble: “We the people of Zimbabwe, united in our diversity by our common desire for freedom, justice and equality…” .

Such grand words give such hope before you’ve even begun and leave you staring wistfully out the window at the gorgeous blue sky, golden grass and deep shady trees.

Another man goes past; riding a bicycle he rings his bells and calls out: “bottles.” He buys old bottles, paying a few cents for empty beer and cold drink bottles or swapping your empty bottles for a few of the goods he has on the front carrier of his bicycle that day: fresh eggs, small packets of biscuits, bags of sweets and chewing gum.

Calculations are done with a stick in the sand on the ground outside your door and once both parties are happy, bottles are loaded into a crate on the back of his bicycle and off he goes.

While one man sits on the dusty ground fixing holes in pots and another buys old bottles for a living, I go back to the open Constitution on my desk because I know that something very sad is going on in the capital city.

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe

The first change to Zimbabwe’s brand new Constitution is within sight. Just four years after multi millions of dollars were spent drafting a new constitution, undertaking a national outreach programme to get people’s views followed by a referendum, parliament is right now debating the first amendment to our sacred document of fundamental principles.

Zimbabwe’s Constitution (2013) states that all candidates for the bench (Courts) must go through a public interview process after which names of successful candidates are forwarded to the President for appointment.

The first amendment to our new Constitution, proposed by Zanu PF, would, however, enable the President to appoint the Chief Justice, deputy Chief Justice and Judge President, overriding the democratic process of public interviews.

Read also: Cathy Buckle: Watching and waiting for Zimbabwe’s next wave of land grabs

There is nothing coincidental about the timing or reasoning of the proposed first amendment to our new Constitution; we are now just a year away from general elections. I glance back at the Constitution on my desk. I am still on the first page, the Preamble, and It is ironic that the closing words read: “imploring the guidance and support of Almighty God, hereby make this Constitution and commit ourselves to it as the fundamental law of our beloved land.”

Promises, hopes and commitments made in Zimbabwe’s new Constitution haven’t even lasted four years.

Zimbabwe banks
Flag map of Zimbabwe

One last glance at the Constitution takes me back to the pages I always find myself at: Chapter 3: Citizenship. This section outlines who is a citizen and allows for dual citizenship. This, undoubtedly, will be the next section of our new Constitution that the government of Zimbabwe will amend.

Just a month ago, Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar General said: “As the Ministry of Home Affairs, we have decided we are not going for realignment (of the citizenship Act to the Constitution) but for amendment.”

Dual citizenship, promised in our new Constitution is obviously not going to happen and 3-4 million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora will be disenfranchised, as will any born Zimbabwean whose parents were not born in the country.

Who will guard the guards? Until next time, thanks for reading, love Cathy.

  • Cathy Buckle is the author of four children books. She has also written the non-fictional African Tears, the Zimbabwe Land Invasions, Beyond Tears: Zimbabwe’s tragedy, Innocent Victims: Rescuing the Stranded Animals of Zimbabwe’s Farm Invasions and Sleeping Like a Hare. The article was first published at www.cathybuckle.com.
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