On Tuesday February 5th, Professor Lovemore Madhuku, NCA's Chairperson, gave a press conference in front of Civic Society at Bumbiro/Isisekelo House. He called for a NO vote at the Constitutional Referendum expected for the end of March and gave a thorough explanation of his reasons, dividing them into two main arguments; Process and Content. Prof. Madhuku stated that either argument alone is sufficient. Here is the official transcript of NCA's Press Statement:
TAKE CHARGE: VOTE NO IN THE REFERENDUM
SAY NO TO A CONSTITUTION BY POLITICAL PARTIES: THE PEOPLE MUST WRITE THEIR OWN CONSTITUTION
1. The mission of the NCA has remained unchanged over the years. It is to advocate for a new, democratic and people-driven constitution in our country. By a people-driven process, we mean a process led by an independent Constitutional Commission not answering to the dictates of politicians of the day. It is on the basis of this approach and its mission that the NCA rejected the COPAC process and vowed to urge the people of Zimbabwe not to accept any constitution authored for them by three self-serving political parties. It is now clear that COPAC is exclusively an affair of three political parties. The COPAC Draft Constitution is neither people-driven nor democratic and must be rejected. The NCA is campaigning for A NO VOTE in the envisaged referendum.
2. The NCA calls upon the inclusive government to ensure that the referendum is credible and that the people be afforded a free and fair framework to exercise their choice in the matter. The following are the conditions we demand:
- Making the Draft available as widely as possible in the major languages.
- Adequate period for the campaign to enable all voters to have a full grasp of the provisions of the Draft Constitution before making their choice. A minimum of two months is required. Our lawyers have been instructed to make an urgent challenge in the Supreme Court should a shorter period be given.
- Suspension of the provisions of POSA for campaign meetings. If this is not done, the NCA reserves its right to campaign without being restricted by POSA.
- Equal access to the public media by both the YES and NO voices.
- Impartial civic education on the contents by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and civil society (other than NCA). The NCA regards any outreach programmes by COPAC on the draft as partisan.
- Peaceful campaigns and in this regard call upon the political parties in the inclusive government to desist from any forms of violence and intimidation.
3. The NCA recognises that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is an independent body. We call upon it
- to provide training to polling agents for both the YES and NO sides. The NCA has no resources to train its agents.
- to announce details relating to eligibility to vote(whether its by IDs only or there is a voters roll) and polling stations at least two months before polling day.
- to monitor provisions on equal access to the media.
4. The NCA`s main campaign strategy will be door to door and small group meetings.
5. Here are our reasons for the VOTE NO CAMPAIGN.
1. This is not a democratic and people-driven constitution. A democratic constitution must be people-driven.
2. This is a constitution being imposed on us by three political parties, yet the people are bigger than these three political parties.
3. No political party or group of political parties must be allowed to give the country a constitution. A constitution must come from the people.
4. It is not about what people wanted or said but about the selfish and personal interests of politicians. We need a constitution that will survive the test of time and not a deal for current politicians.
5. Politicians spent 4 years and squandered over US$50 million to produce a constitution which is not good for the country but for themselves.
6. If people say YES to a constitution being imposed by political parties, they will be giving away their power permanently and politicians will never respect the people and the country will not develop.
7. A NO vote is the answer. It will allow people to write their own constitution after the elections through an INDEPENDENT CONSTITUTIONAL COMMISSION.
8. The constitution leaves all power in the President, who is allowed to do what he/she wants. Here are the powers of the President:
- The President is head of state, head of government and commander in chief.(sec 89).
- The powers of the President as head of state are unlimited.(sec 110(1)).
- The president appoints all Ministers and Deputy Ministers on his/her own without the approval of Parliament.(sec 104).
- There is no maximum limit on the number of Ministers and Deputy Ministers. It is up to the President.(sec 104).
- The President alone constitutes the Cabinet.(sec105). The statement in the Draft Constitution saying the President exercises executive authority “through cabinet” has no value because the Cabinet is the President`s baby. All Cabinet Ministers are hired and fired by the President at his/her pleasure.
- The President is allowed to appoint up to three Ministers from outside Parliament. This is bringing back appointed non constituency MPs. (sec 104(3)).
- The President appoints all ambassadors without consulting anybody.(sec 204).
- The President has the final say over the appointment of all permanent secretaries.(sec 205).
- The President appoints all security chiefs (Army Commanders, Commissioner of Police, Director of CIO etc). In making these appointments, all the President is required to do is to consult one of his/her Ministers.(Chapter 11).
- The President has the final say over the appointment of all judges. (sec 180). Although there is provision for interviews, the President has power to refuse to appoint any of those recommended and order the Judicial Service Commission to start afresh.
- The President has the final say over the appointment of all Commissions including the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. (chapter 12).
- The President approves salaries, allowances and benefits for all civil servants from the lowest to the highest worker. (sec203(4)). The President still has this power after appointing a Minister for the Public Service and the Civil Service Commission.
- The President has power to dissolve Parliament if it refuses to pass his/her government`s budget.(sec 143(3)).
- The President also has power to dissolve Parliament if it passes a vote of no confidence in his/her government. (sec 109(4)).
- The Constitution does not impose a duty on the President to answer questions in Parliament. It leaves this to be decided by a future Parliament so that the political party controlling Parliament will shield the President from answering questions.(sec 140(3)).
- The President has unlimited immunity while in office and is allowed to plead “good faith” after leaving office.(sec 98).
- The President has power to declare war. The role of Parliament in this regard is useless.(sec 111).
- The President has power to pardon his/her political allies. (sec 112).
- The President has power to declare a state of emergency. (sec 113).
9. There are 2 Vice Presidents.(sec 92). We no longer need 2 Vice presidents in a new constitution.
10. The size of Parliament has been increased to a total of 350 MPs( 270 National Assembly and 80 Senators).(sec 120 and 124). We have no resources for such a huge legislature.
11. The increase in the size of Parliament is coming from an additional 60 seats for women. The quota for female MPs should be taken out of the existing number of MPs without increasing the size of Parliament.
12. Despite its huge size, Parliament remains very weak. It is just a talk shop. So why increase the number of MPs to join a talk shop. The political parties are just creating employment for their supporters at the expense of the people.
13. There are no term limits for Members of Parliament.
14. Except for the Bill of Rights, this constitution can be amended by Parliament without a referendum.(sec 328). This means that all provisions including those on term limits will be amended by future Parliaments, thus maintaining the current problem where the constitution has been amended several times.
15. For the next ten years, if the President resigns or dies, there are no by-elections for the President. The country is given a President by the political party of the former President, yet people elect a person and not a political party as President.( see paragraph 14, schedule 6). This means that if there are internal fights in the political party concerned, the country will have to go without a President until the political party sorts itself out. Is this not making political parties more important than the country? Further, does this mean that a citizen not nominated by a political party cannot stand for the office of President? The issue of running mates which will apply after ten years did not come from the people.
16. There is no devolution at all. There are very weak Provincial Councils composed of the same people who are in Parliament. MPs will have two jobs: the province and Parliament. The provincial Councils do not govern anything in the Province.(chapter 14).
17. There is no provision compelling the State to allocate a specified minimum percentage of the nation`s revenue to deal with the needs of the poor. A people- driven constitution will allocate specific funding for food, health, education and water.
18. Most rights in the Bill of rights are listed for decoration as there is no mechanism for their realisation.
19. For workers, the right to strike is very restricted and will not be available, while government workers will continue to be subject to conditions of work different from those of other workers, such as with collective bargaining.
20. There is no right to vote for Zimbabweans in the diaspora.
21. The Zimbabwe Media Commission established by the constitution(sec 248) will be an instrument used by the state to undermine freedom of expression.
22. The winner-take-all electoral system is still intact despite the demand by the people for a mixed electoral system, allowing proportional representation for half the MPs.
23. The death penalty does not apply to all female murderers and males above 70 years. This is undesirable. If the death penalty is retained, it must not be applied in this discriminatory way. (sec 48).
24. There are provisions which will apply after several years ranging from seven to ten years. Why have them in the constitution now? The idea is to have a constitution which will not affect the political leaders promoting this constitution. Some provisions will disappear after ten years.
SIGNED: LOVEMORE MADHUKU
NCA CHAIRPERSON (5 FEBRUARY,2013).