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Sokwanele Constitution Survey

The full survey is available for download by clicking this link (PDF format – 6MB)

Sokwanele, a civic action support group, which also provides data and analysis about events in Zimbabwe, undertook a survey in 2010 order to give its readers an opportunity to submit their views on the content of the constitution which was to be drafted after consultation with the general population. It began about the same time as live consultations were begun throughout Zimbabwe through the official process driven by the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC). This report contains the results of that survey.

Demographics of the respondents

As a web-based survey, Sokwanele’s questionnaire drew usable responses from 1039 readers. Not all of them answered online, as some hard copies were handed out as well, but the online submissions accounted for 85% of the responses. A substantial number of preliminary questions which identified the demographics of the respondents showed that 59% of them lived in the diaspora, and of those living in Zimbabwe, the great majority were based in Harare or Bulawayo. 69% of the respondents were male, only 57% were black compared to 36% white, and as many as 71% said they had a tertiary education. Furthermore 52% were in full-time employment. Thus on several counts the respondents were not representative of the Zimbabwean population.

The majority of those responding were Zimbabweans citizens and 69% retained the right to vote, in spite of so many being out of Zimbabwe. Many had voted in elections going back to 1980. Just under half claimed to have an affiliation with the MDC – T political party. A substantial number had left the country before 2000, but the largest numbers went into exile between 2001-2002, and after 2005. Amongst those in the diaspora the commonest reason for leaving was economic (45%) and political reasons (26%), with 63% supporting family members in Zimbabwe. More than three quarters of them said they would want to return to Zimbabwe in the future.

Survey charts

The conclusion is drawn that although the sample is not representative of the general Zimbabwean population for a variety of reasons, the responses come from Zimbabweans who have generally participated in the political life of the country in the past and retain an interest in its future. Because of the data on location, race, sex and age, it was possible to examine some of the responses by these categories, thus giving a fuller understanding of opinions, and interesting information which begs for further investigation.

Substantive responses

The questions in the survey followed in a general way the questions put as “talking points” in the consultation undertaken by the COPAC outreach teams, although not all issues were canvassed, and in some cases additional questions were asked which would provide interesting information about people’s views. This was particularly the case in regard to the questions surrounding land and land reform.

Founding principles of the new Constitution

The first section dealt with founding principles and values, correction of historical imbalances, amnesty, truth and reconciliation surrounding past abuses of power. Huge majorities (92% – 97%) supported the inclusion of statements of principle reflecting a functioning democracy, the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution. Substantial majorities wanted recognition for the need to correct historical imbalances in land distribution (64%), but even larger majorities wanted the constitution to address both general problems such as corruption (83%) and abuse of power (84%) and even specific events such as Gukurahundi (70%) and Murambatsvina (63%). They are prepared for reconciliation, but are not generally in favour of amnesty for past crimes, preferring that justice is done. More than half wanted investigations of politically motivated crimes and abuses to go back as far as 1980, and significant numbers would take the investigation pre-Independence. A large majority said they would be either disappointed (40%), angry (19%), shocked (5%) or betrayed (30%) if there was a total amnesty, and a similar number favoured having a Truth Commission as was established in South Africa.

Survey charts

Human Rights and Freedoms

The next sections questioned respondents on human rights, and responses demonstrated a strong commitment to all the standard civil rights. They also supported inclusion of socio-economic rights in the constitution’s Bill of Rights. The most striking parts of this section were the more detailed questions on the controversial rights relating to the death penalty, sexual orientation and abortion. In some of them, the views were disaggregated according to both race and sex, and produced some interesting results. Just under half favoured the abolition of the death penalty and as many as 41.8% were prepared to allow same sex relationships. However, a breakdown of this last by race shows that a large portion of that last figure represents white respondents, reflecting a large divergence on this issue according to race. The divergence on the issue of abortion was rather based on sex, with a large majority favouring the right to abortion at least in some circumstances, and more than 35% prepared to allow full abortion rights. However, 39% of women surveyed would not allow abortion under any circumstances, while only 9% of men chose this option.

Survey charts

In regard to human rights and culture, a significant majority stated that culture should never take priority over human rights, but a substantial minority said it should in certain circumstances, which were not specified. A racial break-down showed that black respondents formed the largest group with the view that culture might predominate in some instances, although even for them, it was only 34%.

Citizenship

The next set of questions addressed citizenship, a contentious issue in the constitutional debate. The responses here were doubtless influenced by the large percentage of respondents in the diaspora, and the disproportionate numbers of whites. A very large majority supported dual citizenship as well as a wide application of entitlement to citizenship by birth or by ancestry and through marriage or residence. Huge majorities also supported the inclusion of citizens’ duties in the constitution, such as respecting the constitution, the flag the national anthem, and defending the country. Almost as many accepted the need for national identity cards, while slightly over half felt that it should not be possible to have one’s citizenship revoked after acquiring it.

Survey charts

Health, Welfare and Humanitarian Assistance

Survey chartThe section entitled Health, Welfare and Humanitarian Assistance essentially dealt with some of the socio-economic rights, but framed them in terms of government’s obligations. Over 90% selected food, shelter and health care as areas in which government had obligations towards citizens, but only 74% felt that anti-retroviral drugs should be provided to all who needed them, indicating clearly that provision of health care would be qualified.

A third question enabled respondents to state that they wanted the constitution to direct the way in which government should co-operate with civil society actors in times of crisis, and an overwhelming majority said they did. In all these areas, then, respondents were in broad agreement about rights of citizens, eligibility for citizenship and obligations of government toward citizens. Only in regard to the three controversial rights were there strong opinions on both sides.

Natural Resources

Regarding natural resources, the split was again more even, with just under half wanting government to own natural resources, but a larger number saying that local communities should benefit – in what way was not asked – from resources in their area. But nearly everyone felt the environment should be considered in new developments – again in what way was not asked.

Structure of Government

Two very large sections followed these preliminaries, containing much of the core of the structure of government. First questions were asked about the concept of separation of powers, and then each branch of government was tackled separately – legislature, executive and judiciary. Some of the concepts were explained before the questions were asked. There was very strong support (95%) for the idea of separation of powers, even though it cannot be demonstrated that respondents had a clear understanding of what it meant.

Survey chart

The views on the legislature showed considerable uniformity, with a clear majority preferring a single chamber parliament (62%), located in Harare (61%). Even more felt MPs should forfeit their seats if they crossed the floor to a different party after being elected, and another huge majority wanted the introduction of recall of MPs by their constituencies. Almost all wanted all MPs to be elected by the people rather than some being appointed, and Parliament to have the power to remove the President or Prime Minister. Just half felt seats should be reserved for special interest groups, but this did not include traditional leaders.

Survey charts

The section on the executive branch of government proved very problematic, as it is a complex area, with many possible variations, and not conducive to easy management by multiple choice questions. Nevertheless, in spite of some confusion, it is clear that a slight majority preferred an elected President as head of the executive, with a third suggesting we need both a President and a Prime Minister. Almost everyone (95%) wanted term limits as well as minimum and maximum ages for the head of the executive. There was also strong support for a maximum size of cabinet to be stipulated by the constitution, and a wish that all cabinet ministers be appointed from among elected members of parliament.

Survey chart

The judiciary was more straightforward with virtually all wanting a declaration of the independence of the judiciary, and some circumscription of the power of the President to appoint judges, being advised either by an independent commission or parliament. Term limits or a retirement age should be prescribed for judges, and there should be an independent body which can remove them. The majority would give Parliament the power to decide whether international treaties signed by the executive should become part of Zimbabwean law. And a very strong majority favoured the establishment of a constitutional court.

Survey charts

Defence, Police, Prison And Public Services

Responses to questions about the security services (defence, prisons, police) and the civil service showed a clear wish for principles of non-partisanship to be included, with public servants barred from participation in politics. Parliament should be given the major role, one way or another, in the appointment of the Attorney-General, and the commanders of the security services.

War Veterans

A majority (58%) of the respondents do not want a special ministry for war veterans, and a larger majority (69%) do not want any affirmative action programme to benefit war veterans. A similar percentage (66%) also want a body to monitor them, and they want the term war veteran clearly defined. They want the criteria for qualification as a National Hero to be laid down in the constitution, and the process of deciding who qualifies to be handed either to Parliament or an independent commission.

Labour

The respondents are unrealistically generous when it comes to labour rights, wanting all international labour law to be recognised and all the standard rights, including the right to strike (82%), and even the right to paternity leave (68%). 75% want the right to full employment to be included in the constitution!

94% support the rights to equal pay for men and women doing the same job.

Public Finance

The primary theme under public finance was the issue of transparency and accountability, with close to 100% calling for publication of reports by parastatals, and as many as 84% wanting ministers to be personally responsible for financial malpractice in their ministries and an even higher number (91%) wanting details of ministers’ expenses to be made public. Gender sensitive budgeting was supported by just half the respondents, white males showing the lowest frequency of favouring such a measure (33%). Again, there was very strong support (80%) for an independent Reserve Bank with a Governor being appointed at least with the approval of Parliament, and his/her activities both as an official and as a private person restricted.

Survey charts

Independent Commissions

The respondents appear to have a strong belief in independent commissions. When asked to indicate which out of 18 suggested commissions should be included, more than half supported every one except that for war veterans. Yet another independent commission would be selected for the President to consult on appointments of commissioners, but these would have to have the approval of Parliament.

Land Reform

The survey took the opportunity to canvas opinions on the issue of land reform which are not related to the constitution. A huge majority (85%) deemed the land reform not be successful, but land of high importance. White respondents were a significant proportion of over half who believe the reform can be reversed. As many as 44% would like to be beneficiaries of land reform, including 66% of the black respondents, and 61% of those black respondents living in the diaspora. Over 90% favour an independent land commission to carry out an audit on current land holding.

Questions on land ownership produced some surprising answers, possibly because distinctions were not made between different types of title to land – ownership, leases and communal holding. However, nearly half of the respondents accept that the state should have the power to compulsorily acquire land for the purpose of land reform, but mainly on specific conditions such as under-utilisation, and excluding land purchased after Independence. Furthermore a very large majority felt that compensation should be paid and due process of law followed and that the constitution should provide secure title to land and recognise international law on land rights.

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