To align or to amend

Time to act on the environment
UNESCO message on the occasion of the International Day for Universal Access to Information

By Go Zim

The current Zimbabwean constitution was overwhelmingly voted for by the majority of the citizens. The main reason being that its drafting involved major players in the political sphere in the country.

Its adoption in 2013 as the country’s supreme law was largely expected to bring in the envisioned democratic dispensation in the country. This dispensation was to come through the alignment of most laws to the new constitution. Some laws that were expected to be repealed or amended were the Public Order and Security Act (POSA), the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA) and the Urban Council’s Act among others.

The new constitution also brought the country’s intelligence sector to be recognised and controlled by law.

Fast forward to 2020, the majority of these laws have not yet been aligned to the country’s supreme law with commentators saying the democratic space is actually shrinking. The Government is now focused on fast-tracking amendments to the constitution which has not been fully implemented.

Can the constitution have defects before it is fully implemented? What should come first, amendment or alignment of the constitution? What is so urgent in these amendments such that even the current Coronavirus initiated lockdown guidelines had to be broken so as to consult citizens? And why have we not had the same zeal that we are now showing in amending the constitution than alignment in the past eight years?

Eight years down the line we still do not have provincial councils as enshrined in the constitution. People are being arrested for violating the provisions of POSA or AIPPA, the media landscape remains as it was before the current constitution. Surely these must be aligned to the constitution as well.

If the amendments are going to open the democratic space in the country, then surely they must be given a chance and come first.

All the same, citizens need their voice to be heard during these and other consultations. They cannot leave the process to parliament but need to register their concerns regarding the amendments; in any case, the amendments are likely to sail through the august house. Citizen participation is the cornerstone of any democracy.

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