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Constitutional democracy: To what extent are Zimbabweans free?

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Economic freedom has impeccable outcomes, but not before there is effective democracy, rule of law and constitutionalism.

By Rejoice Ngwenya


There is irrefutable evidence that freedom – economic or political – has strong bearing on quality of life.

Human beings are like air surrounded by a vacuum – we have a natural propensity to “break out and be free”.

What we know is that there can never be true freedom in the absence of effective, liberal democracy.

The problem occurs when we attempt to make “constitutional democracy”, and freedom synonymous.

I have previously cautioned “democrats” to consider the Zimbabwe example, where political independence faltered in bringing political freedom despite three “democratic constitutions”: at Lancaster in 1979; Constitutional Commission in 1998 and the select committee of parliament on the new constitution in 2009.

Yet those in power and their lapdogs still argue Zimbabweans are (meant to be) fully enjoying both political and economic freedom.

When one considers the natural outcomes of a democratic free country as expounded by the index published in Economic Freedom of the World (EFW), measuring it against Zimbabwe’s standards becomes an exercise in futility.

At first glance, it seems like a daunting task for any one country to assume a high rating. But who said delivering liberal democratic outcomes would be easy?

In essence, it means political parties like the Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (Zanu-PF) and the ANC, whose provenance is embedded in nationalist socialism, no matter how hard they try, cannot pass the EFW test of economic freedom.

This is why even though our constitutions are generally considered “democratic”, we remain languishing in the third “least free” quartile on the index.

Between 2009 and 2013, I was part of a team which re-crafted the Zimbabwe constitution. It drew the usual coterie of critics – for good reason – but produced commendable results under difficult political circumstances.