Opinion

Six years after the New Constitution: What still needs to be fixed

OPINION

By Loreen Tadzingwa

The making of the new constitution is an important development in the history of any country as it affords the citizens an opportunity to either strengthen their governance system into a truly democratic one.

The process gives people a chance to make a fresh start by reviewing their past experiences, identifying the root causes of their problems, learning lessons and making a concerted effort to provide genuine solutions for the better and the future development.

A constitution is such a critical document in that it gives the guidelines on the utilisation and distribution of national resources and it also highlights the ambitions and aspiration of the country.

Zimbabwe wrote a new constitution in 2013 which was overwhelmingly voted for as both Zanu PF and MDC endorsed it and gave it a thumbs up.

However, it’s been six years since we adopted the new constitution but it seems we are still under the old constitution economically, socially and politically.

There are still many things or areas that need to be fixed to ensure the people of Zimbabwe begin to eat the fruits of this constitution.

Some of the things that need to be fixed or that appear to have been forgotten include the below listed and many others:

 

HEALTH

The constitution is very clear in Section 76 (1) that health is a human right to be enjoyed by citizens and permanent residents of Zimbabwe.

However, the state of the health sector in Zimbabwe appears to be singing a different song from the aspiration of the constitution.

The country’s health sector is in a deplorable state that ranges from dilapidated and aged equipment which is always breaking down, shortage of doctors and nursing staff which results in an unsustainable doctor to patient ratio, lack of essential drugs and even shortage of ambulances among many others.

This deplorable state of the health sector has been pointed as one of the main reason for the deaths that are being recorded in the country’s hospitals, deaths which can be prevented by simply following the constitution.

In terms of funding, the government has done badly and has relegated that responsibility to various development partners such as Global Fund, UNICEF, PSI and PEPFAR among many others to cater for the fight against HIV/Aids, Malaria and Tuberculosis among many other diseases.

Even though Zimbabwe signed to the Abuja Declaration in 2001 committing to allocate 15% of its total national budget to the health sector, the country has dismally failed to do so and is also dragging to pay US$6 million subscriptions to the Global Fund which will unlock about US$400 million funding for medicine and response to HIV/Aids, Malaria and TB response.

According to experts, the government needs to do more in terms of funding the health sector adding that relegating the duty to development partners promotes a dependence syndrome and that is dangerous especially when the said partners decide to withdraw their support or fail to raise the funds.

 

GENDER BALANCE

The Zimbabwean constitution recognises that men and women are equal and Section 80 (1) says “every woman has full and equal dignity of the person with men and this includes equal opportunities in political, economic and social activities.”

While efforts have been made to bring gender balance in the Senate due to the Zebra listing system (Section 120.2), but the National Assembly has performed badly and had to rely on Section 124 (1)(b) which creates 60 seats for women for the first two terms of Parliament up to 2023.

Statistics from the 2018 general election also shows that the number of women in Parliament is on a downward trend as both Parliament and political parties are dragging to make deliberate efforts to implement the gender balance in their constitutions.

Section 17 of the Constitution obligates the state to take all measures to ensure both genders are equally represented in all institutions and agencies of government at every level but according to Speaker of the National Assembly Jacob Mudenda if political parties do not put gender balance in their constitutions then the number of women in Parliament will continue to fall.

However, on a positive note government appears to be making headway in instituting gender balance in the various commissions that have been set the likes Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) among others as well as some boards of parastatals.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa has hinted that his government taking advantage of Zanu PF’s two-thirds-majority in Parliament they will move to extend the life of the Proportional Representation Clause (Section 124.b) to ensure the 60 seats reserved for women will not be taken away. However, such a move has already received a negative response from women organisations who claim the move is meant to silence them from demanding the 50/50 seats.

According to LEAD president Linda Masarira-Kaingidza, the 60 women seats are being used to manipulate and abuse women in political circles.

Since Zimbabwe is a member of the Africa Union, Sadc and United Nations which have conventions and protocols on gender balance and which our government also signed to we, therefore, expect the government to move with speed to act on their commitments and promises as well follow the dictates of the constitution.

 

EMPLOYMENT CREATION

Section 14(2) says “At all times the state and all institutions and agencies of government at every level must ensure that appropriate and adequate measures are undertaken to create employment for all Zimbabweans, especially women and youths.”

Despite this provision in the constitution the majority of Zimbabweans are currently unemployed six years since its inception with reports of companies retrenching workers or closing shop every day.

Youths have been the most affected demography and have had to retreat to the streets to do vending and changing money while some have crossed borders into neighbouring countries such as South Africa and Botswana to do menial jobs some in despicable conditions.

The ruling party Zanu PF in its election manifesto also promised millions of jobs and therefore there is need to put their act together and ensure they make attractive investment laws, removing all obstacles that have been hindering business as well avail funds to resuscitate closed companies.

If government is unable to create the much-needed jobs then they have to set aside funds to support projects being done young entrepreneurs in various sectors of the economy since Section 24 compels government to adopt reasonable policies and measures to provide everyone with an opportunity to work in a freely chosen activity in order to secure a decent living for themselves and their families.

 

TRADE AND INVESTMENT

Zimbabwe needs to boost its trade which has generally been dominated by imports at the expense of the much needed and beneficial exports which generate foreign currency for the country.

One of the ways of boosting exports is through easing the cost of doing business in the country to allow production to take place and this will translate into competitive pricing for locally produced goods on the international market.

Companies and potential investors have complained of the multiple tax regimes, expensive but unreliable utilities such as water and electricity, lack of funds to borrow for capitalisation on the local market among many others.

These bottlenecks have reportedly stifled production thereby affecting exports and this is supported by Section 24 (2)(b) which says the state must endeavour to secure “the removal of restrictions that unnecessarily inhibit or prevent people from working and otherwise engaging in gainful economic activities.”

There is also need for government to loosen up on some of its laws in order to attract foreign investors and lines of credit through coming up with such laws as the current Special Economic Zones Act where investors will enjoy tax breaks among other incentives in the designated areas.

The move to discard the Indigenisation Policy is also a welcome move that puts the country in a good light.

 

WEAK INSTITUTIONS

One major problem that has stood in the way of Zimbabwe from moving forward or making political, social and economic progress has been the issue of weak but critical institutions.

The Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra), Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) coupled with Parliament of Zimbabwe all have important roles in turning the fortunes of the country if they effectively and efficiently discharge their constitutionally designated mandates but they are somewhat weak and need strengthening.

Parliament, for example, is supposed to play an oversight role on government but lack of funding and manipulation of the legislators through the Whipping system and lack of knowledge by most legislators has seen this institution degenerating into a rubber-stamping organisation.

The government needs to strengthen these institutions and give them the independence they are supposed to enjoy from political interference and only then can the people of Zimbabwe begin to enjoy the fruits of the constitution.

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is a male journalist in Zimbabwe and has been practising since September 2009. He used to the editor for The Business Connect (newspaper) in Harare, has his own news website Tourism Focus which is biased towards the tourism sector. Daniel is also working with Magamba Network on their project called Open Parliament where they do live coverage of Parliamentary activities on Twitter and Facebook. He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum, is a member of Zimbabwe Small Broadcasters Association and a board member of Digital Communication Network. He holds a Diploma in Communication and Journalism from the Christian College of Southern Africa (CCOSA), a certificate in Youth leadership training from the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), a certificate in Citizen Journalism from Magamba Network and is currently a first-year student at Zimbabwe Open University studying for a Bachelor of Arts Honours in Ethics and Organisational Leadership.

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