“Safeguarding the Constitution is Everyone’s Duty”

Dear Friends and Partners

Yesterday was a special day in history as we joined our hands with Dr. Alex Magaisa, the Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum, WELEAD Trust, Women’s Institute for Leadership and Development (WILD), the Centre for Applied Legal Research (CALR) and Justice for Children to launch what will from now on be known as the Constitutional Law Centre.

I was truly overwhelmed by the spirit of convergence, purpose and determination that engulfed the event as speaker after speaker called forth, almost prophetically, the rebirth of Zimbabwe and impressed on the need to revive that spirit that inspired the early constitutional movement which saw the birth of the current Constitution.

In his remarks, Dr Alex Magaisa, one of the founders of CLC, reminded the people that a constitution is the collective imagination of the nation. “But imagination alone is not enough, we have to live it,” He added.

His views resonated with Dr Musa Kika who in introducing the Special Report (that was launched at the event) stated that constitutionalism is a journey. “We are aspiring to walk to a place where the Constitution is an enabler in real and tangible ways of the progress and development of our society.” Said Kika. He said indeed, constitutionalism is about bread and butter. It is when we do not have constitutionalism that the government loses touch with the people. This was seconded by young activist Mantate Mlotshwa who said she feels she lives in a different Zimbabwe from that of the leaders.

“There is a separation of realities,” Mlotshwa said. “This is how I feel as a young person. When you read what the President is typing on his Twitter account, you start to think the Zimbabwe you are in, is not the Zimbabwe that this government is actually leading.”

Many Zimbabweans share this feeling. Just yesterday, the Daily News quoted the Minister of Finance Prof. Mthuli Ncube saying that life is set to get better for the Zimbabweans and that Zimbabwe’s worst economic challenges are now behind us. The Professor has been saying this since 2017. And that is not the reality for ordinary Zimbabweans. And when the people demand real reforms, the government which is now sponsoring a Patriotic Bill, accuses them of pursuing a western agenda.

But perhaps the highlight of the day was the keynote address delivered by leading human rights defender Beatrice Mtetwa. She highlighted that the push for Constitutionalism in Zimbabwe is indeed a legitimate and organic struggle and not a western agenda.

“There is a belief that when we push for constitutional rights, then we are pushing a western agenda. Actually, 93% of Zimbabwean voters voted for these rights. It was the Parliament of Zimbabwe that passed the Constitution into law. It was a Zimbabwean President who signed the Constitution into law. Therefore, there is nothing western about demanding adherence to Constitutionalism.” Said Mtetwa.

Mtetwa asked the critical question of our time, “Where do we get ethical leaders?”

This is a question that goes to the heart of most of our problems as a country. We are suffering from a deficit of ethical leadership in critical institutions. This is what has thrown our judiciary into a crisis. By building a culture of constitutionalism, perhaps CLC will call of us back to the basics of a society that cares about values again. This is what Deprose Muchena, one of the founders of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) called decisive leadership.

Contributing to a panel discussion that was facilitated by Brian Kagoro, Muchena said he saw ‘the establishment of the Constitutional Law Centre as a fulfilment of a long-standing spirit of ordinary Zimbabweans to take decisive leadership in determining the future of the country.’ He chronicled how the full vision of the NCA was lost at a time when others thought a political party was the correct step but encouraged the CLC to carry on with that vision through decisive leadership.

I felt greatly privileged to be in the middle of transformative generations on constitutionalism. I remain greatly indebted to the leadership of Dr. Magaisa and other consortium partners who made this initiative a reality. I am challenged by the energy of Namatai and her generation of activists who did not wait to be invited to the table, but kicked open the door and took leadership.

At ZimRights, we have taken a deliberate step to be the home of citizen convergence. Creating space for emerging activists and yet not losing the wealth of the traditional community organising that Zimbabwe’s first post-independence indigenous grassroots movement has always been associated with. We are the proud home for the Constitutional Law Centre and indeed, we are thrilled to serve the great people of Zimbabwe as they take decisive action in determining their future.

As one of the participants, Patrice Kakono said during the launch, “Safeguarding the constitution is everybody’s duty. As citizens, we cannot subcontract it to the politicians.”

Source: Zimbabwe Human Rights Association

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