UNTIL an hour before casting my vote in the just concluded referendum on Zimbabwe’s draft constitution held on March 16, I was in a serious quandary whether to cast my vote at all, to vote “NO” or to vote “Yes”. At the end of the day, I decided to exercise my right to vote and participated in the referendum with an affirmative vote. And here is the reason why.
First of all, I strongly felt that the process of drafting the constitution itself had been exclusionary, designed to serve political interests at best. I also felt that the draft constitution left quite a lot of things hanging and did little to capture the ideal of being that we are seeking as a people. Like many other people, I felt the document was not representative enough. But, at the same time, it introduced some seriously progressive things among others, better recognition of local languages and women.
As I wrangled with myself, I came to the conclusion that nothing in life ever comes neatly packaged. If it were like that there would be no need for constitution writing in the first place. The constitution is only the beginning of a long journey. And besides a constitution is not set in stone.
It’s an ever living document that will change with time and season. Even the so-called progressive constitutions of the world have been a product of political compromise. The key however is respect of the constitution. Having a clean cut and well polished constitution is not the be and end all of everything. The leaders’ and the people have to have it within themselves to respect the constitution.
The constitution alone can never resolve the fundamental problems and ills that we are facing as a nation. As a friend of mine put it, ” … we the people make the constitution relevant or irrelevant, useful or useless … we must therefore vigilantly, relentlessly and strictly obey, enforce, uphold and defend our new national constitution if it’s to be relevant and useful.”
And so I voted “Yes” because of the glimmer that the new constitution encompassed which I felt can push Zimbabwe forward and make it become a part of the community of nations. For the past decade – ominously since another failed attempt to draft a new constitution – Zimbabwe has been stuck in a limbo. We have lost a decade to political bickering, violence and name-calling. Any opportunity that promises changed must be grabbed with both hands as they say in Zimbabwe.
Why I cast my vote in the after therefore is because I believe in Zimbabwe and in my fellow citizens’ ability to negotiate for a better future. I believe what we needed was a way to just get out of the current rut so that we can begin to see thing a little clearly. Perhaps only then can we build the Zimbabwe we want and make it great again.