History of African independence shows us that when presidents are not held accountable to a nation’s laws, they soon run out of motivation to defend the nation but start to focus on building and defending personal interests. A lack of constitutionalism in Zimbabwe has led to decades of arbitrary government which has effectively turned the country into an ethnic Shona territory and a private enterprise of the President and his close allies.
During his tenure spanning at least 37 years, President Robert Mugabe manipulated his tribal numerical advantage to create a demigod of himself; assisted by legal experts in his party, he usurped every piece of legislation that inconvenienced his will. Suffice to say President Emmerson Mnangagwa who took over the reins in a November 2017 coup has continued the trend of abusing the laws of the land.
Zimbabwe has leaders, in both government and the opposition who are the focus of their own universe and have often arbitrarily bypassed provisions of the law in their organisations for personal and often tribal agenda. This is the major reason for the lack of socio-political and economic convergence between Mashonaland and Matabeleland and a downright absence of political progress in the country.
We have a wealth of experience of the ideological distribution and political marketing processes marred, filtered, and manipulated by the ethnic Shona gaze, and have always known of the dangerous impact of arbitrary government. The way that the mainstream political parties and the mainstream media have contributed to the criminalisation and stereotyping of people from Matabeleland, played down the subversion of the legal system by a mostly Shona leadership, and the glorification of corruption and political violence has had dire consequences for the region.
Zimbabwe’s success or failure derives from the form of the state’s constitution; it is from the constitution that all designs and plans of action originate and reach their fulfilment. Arguable, it is from the constitutional deficiencies that Robert Mugabe and his accomplices could create and deploy the 5th brigade unchallenged outside the provisions of existing laws to butcher civilians with impunity.
For Matabeleland and Mashonaland to start to enjoy a peaceable co-existence, a system overhaul is necessary, and constitutionalism is the only hope. The two nations need to sit down as equal partners to decide the best laws to follow; the current majoritarian tyranny is not right, is unjust and damaging to individual liberties.
This is an opportunity for Mthwakazi to unite and battle this tyranny together. Forget the naive view that tribal or racial balancing of personnel in a political organisation or government will address power inequalities when those inequalities and associated injustices are a manifestation of built-in loopholes in a poor system and institutions that enjoy boundless protection from a tribal majority.
The first step in addressing our problems would be casting away blind trust in humans; humans are imperfect beings who by nature will try and get away with anything and everything given the chance. We shall not have confidence in man only to allow them to run amok, but through the constitutional provisions, we need to tie leaders down from mischief.
As hinted above, the best way of protecting the public from government is via legal means and constitutionalism should be our preferred intervention and it starts from our own organisations.
Constitutionalism is defined as various constitutional devices and procedures, e.g. the separation of powers between the legislature, the executive and the judiciary, the independence of the judiciary, justice and respect for individual rights. It stipulates boundaries of what is permissible or not permissible under the law to curtail potential abuse of power and protect the public from abuse of power by a leader or protect minorities from majority tyranny.
We want to adopt a civilised approach to addressing inherent constitutional constraints to our freedom and liberties as Mthwakazi people. We have set do right, gone with a civilised approach: respect the law, both wise and good laws as well as bad laws, whose constitutional basis is the will of the people. We have used courts of law to challenge unjust laws with the aim of having them modified or revoked through established legal devices.
People die for want of wisdom; for progress to manifest itself, we must rid the public of ignorance of laws that determine how the country is run. Laws are only as good as they are understood and used effectively. Our region is endowed with talented legal practitioners and graduates of law; we must find effective ways of working with these individuals and organisations to better inform the public.
The constitution is almost pointless without constitutionalism. If the President is not constrained by the constitution and he chooses which laws to respect, society is in deep trouble. Basic legal appreciation will be handy for Mthwakazi public to make informed political choices and demands. Our people must be made aware of how the Zimbabwe government is interpreting and executing the law. We must form and/ or help fund a charitable legal organisation that would ensure vital laws simplified as much as possible for the benefit of the public and they are public all the time and not only when it is convenient for government officials to make them public.