Constitutional progress and prayer in Zimbabwe

Rev Dr R. Musasiwa, Principal, Domboshawa Theological College

Two emails have come from Avondale Parish - and good that they arrived together. Both are from Rev Dr R. Musasiwa, Principal, Domboshawa Theological College, Harare.

First, the bad news (July 13)
Many had hoped today, 13th July 2009, was to be a highlight in the process of drawing up the much needed people-driven constitution for Zimbabwe. A lot of time and money had gone into preparing for the first of two stakeholder conferences on the new constitution. The venue for the two day conference was the Harare International Conference Centre in Harare.

Nearly 4000 People travelled from all parts of the country to attend this critical conference. Position papers had been prepared. The churches of Zimbabwe also collaborated in crafting a common position paper on both process and content of Zimbabwe’s constitution (available on request).

The accreditation process was slow and chaotic. The proceedings also took too long to commence. Why did people have to wait from 8:00 until 12 noon? No explanation was given by the organizers. This unfortunate delay just created an opportunity for the ZANU-PF and the MDC camps to taunt each other and to sing party songs. Still for those of us who were at the conference this was a small price to pay, if only our patience was to result in a clear way forward for the constitution crafting process.

Unfortunately that was not to be. When the proceedings finally commenced, the Speaker of Parliament (MDC) was in the middle of his welcoming remarks, trying to give a background to the constitution-making process, when ZANU-PF zealots disrupted the occasion by singing party songs, dancing and throwing missiles. We hoped the police would soon restore order to allow the proceedings to carry on. There was no such police intervention until it was all pandemonium. Riot police were finally called in, only to evacuate the hall without anyone announcing a way forward.
By all accounts this was a stage-managed event. It appears that hooligans were bussed to this event to do just what happened. The songs which were being sung suggested an abhorrence to a new constitution, and particularly to the fact that MDC is at the forefront of this process.

For now the forces of chaos appear to have won. It is difficult to know how this process will be rescued from total collapse. Obviously the forces of chaos would hope to even bring down the inclusive government and return the country to the status quo.

All this requires that we pray fervently for the Lord’s will to be done. The forces of chaos must not be allowed to prevail. We trust that the principals to the inclusive government will quickly get together and give this nation a credible way forward.

Police coralling protesters at the constitutional conference (AP)

However, after this disruption - which was aired on UK news as, I guess, yet another example of Mugabe's perfidy - work got underway.
Second - progress (July 14)
Only yesterday it seemed the vital constitution-making process in Zimbabwe was doomed. Forces of chaos seemed to have prevailed and even the inclusive government was under threat. Today phase two of the constitution-making process has been successfully concluded. How did such a turn of events happen?

Foremost was the role of prayer. A number of us responded to yesterday's ugly events by mobilizing prayer. We know people prayed.

Early this morning I received a message from a couple who were praying for this process at the crack of dawn. Many of you would have joined us in praying that our nation would not be engulfed by the sort of chaos that has characterized nations like Somalia. Even as the conference resumed today, we were continuously in prayer. And of course the Lord has been faithful in answering prayer.

Secondly (and as part of the answer to our prayer) the three political principals (Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara) held an emergency meeting last night and issued statements which helped to bring sanity to today's events. They demonstrated unity of purpose and a determination that this process should continue. They warned trouble-makers to stop last night's nonsense or else face consequences.

Thirdly, the Parliamentary Select Committee and the Minister of Constitutional Affairs remained determined to continue with the process. Their own demonstration of political maturity and unity of purpose across the political divide sent a good message to erring subordinates.

The result is that the purpose of the All Stakeholders Conference was fulfilled. The conference was about PROCESS and METHODOLOGY. The original 12 constitutional themes were expanded to 17 as a result of the conference. Speakers elaborated on the various themes to bring an understanding of their importance for the constitution. Rev Dr Shana spoke eloquently on Church and Religion. His was one of the best I have heard. His topic will be one of the 17 themes.

Within two weeks the 17 thematic committees should have been set up for phase 3 of the process - constitution CONTENT. Those committees will then cover the length and breath of Zimbabwe getting people's views on the themes. The findings of those committees will be audited by a verification committee and fed to the drafting committee. The resulting draft constitution will then be discussed in the second stakeholders conference which will determine if any amendments to the draft will be needed before the draft constitution is taken for a referendum. It is VITAL that all Christians become alert to, and participate in, the forthcoming outreach by thematic committees.

While we are glad to have got over the current hurdle, we do not lull ourselves into complacency. Yesterday's events signalled the fact that the process is fragile and can easily be threatened and overwhelmed by forces of chaos. Yesterday's events have helped us to appreciate the vital necessity for prayer until there is a complete turnaround in the fortunes of our nation.

Thank you for being part of this process, in prayer if not in anything else.


Though I have a question which may simply expose my ignorance of the factions in Zimbabwe. If the disruption was organised (which I take as read) then who organised it such that, the following day, Mugabe is telling them off?

Merely a warning, a show of strength to ensure the conference knows the score on where power lies (how could they not)? Or a substantive message of future disruption?

The process sounds impressively inclusive. (Though I have just heard a fairly dismissive observation that democrats believe that all the problems of democracy can be solved by more democracy.) It is clearly designed as an effective mechanism to heal a sick and wounded body politic. Sadly doctor and nurse are still arguing about everything: the need for healing, what should be done first, what medicine would achieve what result. And at least one party is, it would seem, still far more interested in controlling the patient's bank account than restoring health.

Paul Bagshaw

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