BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
A new study has revealed that President Emmerson Mnangagwa and some of his allies are the chief culprits in violating the constitution following the recent enactment of Constitutional Amendment Number 2 Bill into law.
This was revealed in a report titled: ‘Learning to Walk’, which was released yesterday by the Constitutional Law Centre (CLC) during its virtual launch attended by several human rights defenders and civic organisation leaders.
CLC, founded by lawyer Alex Magaisa, is a consortium of six civic society organisations including ZimRights, which are involved in research and advocacy regarding constitutionalism and human rights.
The CLC report reveals that citizens have lost confidence in Mnangagwa’s government on its pledge to uphold the constitution because it failed to consider the will of the people which was against enacting both Constitutional Amendments Bill No. 1 and No. 2.
“This report is being launched at a time when the Constitution is under severe stress. This occurs after the passing of two constitutional amendments, namely Constitutional Amendment Act No. 1 and Constitutional Amendment Act No. 2, both of which are subject to legal disputes. The situation is one of a constitutional crisis, because the constitutional arrangements designed to resolve the legal disputes lead to a cul-de-sac,” the report reads.
“The executive branch of the state is blamed for violating the constitution with the majority of the respondents pointing them as the chief culprit that is hindering the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms.”
In the ZimRights survey conducted across the country, 78% of the respondents felt that there was no constitutionalism in the country and that there was poor implementation of the constitution. Only 19% indicated that there was slow progress in the implementation of the constitution while 3% said there was good progress in the implementation of the constitution.
The judiciary also emerged as one of major perpetrators of constitutional violations. Parliament, the ruling party Zanu PF and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission were also among the institutions mentioned by citizens over failure to uphold constitutionalism.
“The judiciary, which should be upholding the law, is complicit in violating the constitution with many of the respondents unsatisfied with court rulings and judgements and citing that the courts were punishing citizens that exercised their rights given in the Bill of Rights in the constitution,” CLC said.
“The respondents pointed out that while there were controversial judgements on cases of political and prisoners of conscience, there was impunity on those that brazenly violated the rights of citizens with examples of the August 2018 and January 2019 shootings where no one has been brought before the courts to answer to the charges.”
Speaking during the CLC launch, renowned human rights lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa urged legal practitioners to consider constitutionalism in every matter they handle so as to guard against human rights violations.
“There is a deliberate thinking that when human rights defenders push for the respect of the constitution and the rule of law, they are advancing western agendas,” Mtetwa said.
“That is not correct. The Constitution of Zimbabwe was adopted after 93% of the citizens voted for it in a referendum. The Parliament also voted for it and it was signed into law by the president, so there is nothing western about demanding for the rule of law and adherence to the supreme law for a democratic nation.”
Magaisa said the organisation was important to promote and challenge the authorities against constitutional violations and also to ensure that citizens have access to the Constitutional Court to seek redress on rights issues.
“A constitution is a collective imagination of people. It is a social contract between the State and the people it governs,” Magaisa said.
“A people-driven constitution is a process which starts from the day it is adopted, that is why it is important for citizens to be knowledgeable of the rules that govern them. People who are ignorant of the constitution are more likely to have their rights violated and do nothing, but those who understand the dictates of the supreme law will defend themselves where they feel their rights have been infringed.”
Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum executive director Musa Kika said citizens play the leading role in defending the constitution they would have voted for.
“There are some countries that are progressing very well in respecting human rights although they do not have constitutions,” Kika said.
“Constitutionalism is not the document. It is about the act of implementing the dictates of the laws. Therefore, members of the public should stay alert and ensure that the law is not being violated.”