n Africa Conflict Monthly Monitor - Constitution-making and conflict in Zimbabwe : a real chance for peace? - : Southern Africa - issue in focus

Volume 2013, Issue 02
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Zimbabwe's transition toward democracy is entering a critical phase. The years-long process of completing a constitution, led by the Select Committee of Parliament on the New Constitution (COPAC), appears to be approaching an end. The successful conclusion of the process, in the form of a national governing document acceptable to all political factions and endorsed by the international community, is moving from the realm of fiction into the reality of fact. The achievement of a Zimbabwean constitution ratified by the country's people will resonate beyond Zimbabwe's borders to benefit the southern Africa region, long affected by Zimbabwe's economic decline that has been a drag on regional development and set led to a tide of migrant workers into neighbouring countries. The international community would welcome an end to Zimbabwe's status as a pariah state and welcome the country back into the global community to fulfil its promise on such prominent display at the time of national independence in 1980.

The creation of a national constitution was a key demand of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) that was signed in September 2008 between the three major political parties represented in parliament - the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change led by Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T), and Arthur Mutambara (MDC, but now known as MDC-N under the leadership of Welshman Ncube). The GPA, brokered by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), ended a violent 2007 election dispute between incumbent Robert Mugabe and Tsvangirai and established a transitional inclusive government in February 2009 that was meant to settle political disputes between the three principle parties.
A strong constitution that finally puts the law above the rule of any 'strongman' or autocratic oligarchy is Zimbabwe's best bet to achieve the peace and stability that has long eluded one of Africa's most important countries. The alternative for constitutionalism's failure to take root in Zimbabwe is a continuation of Mugabe's legacy of iron-fisted rule enabled by human rights abuses and the suppression of democratic dialogue.

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