The African Charter on Democracy and Governance (ACDEG) was adopted in 2007 by the African Union (AU). The charter is very clear on the need for states to support government institutions, political pluralism and open democratic space in member states. To date, 34 countries have ratified the charter, and Zimbabwe appended its signature on 21 March 2018 but its yet to ratify the charter. One thing that is striking about ACDEG is that it seeks to address African problems such as economic development, poverty alleviation, and increasing literacy by including everyone in the development agenda. Below are the reasons why we must support the ratification of ACDEG.
Through article 8(2), the charter emphasises the need for states to adopt legislative and administrative measures that guarantee the rights of women, ethnic minorities, migrants, people with disabilities, refugees and displaced persons ,and other marginalized and vulnerable social groups. Research shows that inclusive societies are more likely to be developed than those that are not inclusive, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development(OECD) estimates that by 2030 if countries eliminated gender-based discrimination and granted women greater access to education and jobs, global GDP would increase by over $6 trillion.
ACDEG empowers citizens through article 4(2), which calls on states to recognize popular participation through universal suffrage as the absolute right of the people. Ratifying the charter encourages the holding of free and fair elections, in turn encouraging democracy to thrive. Free and fair elections are part of the solution to solving disputed election results that have marred Zimbabwe since 2000. ACDEG stipulates that independent electoral commissions, free media, and electoral observer missions are a pre-requirements to holding credible elections.
In addition, the charter promotes the decentralisation of governmental powers and responsibilities to democratically elected local authorities in line with national laws. The ratification of ACDEG by the government of Zimbabwe will act as a catalyst to the process of devolution, in line with chapter 14 of the constitution which already talks of decentralisation and devolution. Devolution will empower communities to have a voice in the development process by ensuring that decisions are made closer to local people and give greater freedoms at a local level. The charter through article 9 goes beyond devolution by emphasising the need for states to implement social and economic policies and programmes that promote sustainable development and human security.
Zimbabwe is a shining beacon in the region when it comes to provision of quality basic education. However, since the turn of the new millennium, the quality of education has dropped. ACDEG can help restore the past glory as articles 43(1,2) clearly reaffirm the need of governments to provide free, compulsory and universal basic education, and to ensure the literacy of citizens. ACDEG goes beyond what the constitution says about universal education by including every child regardless of nationality, including refugees who often lack access to education.
As we mark two years of change of government in Zimbabwe, the pace has been slow on reforms. The government should ratify and domesticate ACDEG, as the charter is designed in a way that empowers citizens.
Source: Gregory T Matewa
* Matewa is a human rights activist and a member of the Activista Zimbabwe Chapter.