Editor’s Note: The Constitution of Zimbabwe @ 10; the good, the bad and the ugly!
Zimbabwe has a very progressive constitution with an expansive bill of rights which guarantees political, social and economic rights including rights to education, healthcare, food and water, freedom of the media and freedom of expression, freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The Constitution of Zimbabwe also provides every citizen with the right to participate in peaceful political activity; and to participate, individually or collectively, in gatherings or groups or in any other manner, in peaceful activities to influence, challenge or support the policies of the Government or any political or whatever cause.
When the Constitution was enacted in May 2013, it hailed a beacon of hope for Zimbabwean citizens who hoped to transit towards a more inclusive and accountable government. The citizens hoped the new constitution would be a representation of a government that would offer a new start and a renewed commitment to upholding the principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. The constitution's adoption brought forth a wave of optimism, signalling a new era for Zimbabweans who had long yearned for political stability, social justice, and economic prosperity.
However, the government has largely disregarded its provisions since the constitution came into force 10 years ago.
Before the constitution has been fully implemented, the ruling ZANU PF has already amended the constitution in its desperate bid to create an imperial president, something that Zimbabweans overwhelmingly voted against during the constitutional making process. The Government of Zimbabwe is set on a path of authoritarian consolidation through the enactment of laws that stifle the operation of non-state actors deemed ‘hostile’ to it. Earlier this month, the Parliament of Zimbabwe passed the Patriotic Bill which President Emmerson Mnangagwa is expected to sign into law ahead of the August 23, 2023 harmonised elections. The bill is an amendment to the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Amendment Bill, which criminalises fundamental freedoms of association, assembly, and speech of any citizen who holds meetings with foreign governments through diplomats and other representatives. The bill provides that a citizen could face up to 10 years in prison if they engage in talks with hostile nations about sanctions or a trade boycott. The PVO Amendment Bill which criminalises the work of CSOs also awaits the president’s signature. These restrictions have far-reaching consequences on the socio-economic status of citizens and their enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms as enshrined in the country’s constitution.
As we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, it is an opportune time to reflect on the achievements, challenges, and prospects that have unfolded since the constitution's inception. In this issue, we shed light on the importance of this milestone, the progress made, and the shortcomings that have made it impossible for Zimbabwe to fulfil the promises enshrined in its constitutional framework.
It is a time for renewed commitment to upholding the principles enshrined within it. There is still much work to be done in order to fully realise the constitution's transformative potential. Let us seize this moment to foster unity, constructive dialogue, and collective action, ensuring that Zimbabwe's constitutional aspirations become a tangible reality for the betterment of all its citizens.