The Constitution of Zimbabwe is the supreme law of the country, providing the framework for its governance, human rights, and rule of law. The current constitution was adopted in 2013, replacing the 1979 Lancaster House Constitution. In this article, we will discuss the publication of the Constitution and its history, including the Lancaster House Constitution and the constitutional referendums of 2000 and 2013.
Publication of the Constitution
The Constitution of Zimbabwe was published on the 22nd of May 2013, following a constitutional referendum that was held in March of the same year. The referendum approved the new constitution, which was subsequently signed into law by the President and gazetted on the 22nd of May, 2013. The Constitution contains 326 sections and 18 schedules, covering a range of topics such as citizenship, human rights, executive powers, legislative powers, judiciary powers, land, and local governance.
History of the Constitution of Zimbabwe
1979 Lancaster House Constitution
The Lancaster House Constitution was adopted in 1979, as part of the negotiated settlement that brought an end to the Rhodesian Bush War. It established Zimbabwe as an independent republic, providing for a parliamentary system of government with a Prime Minister as the Head of State. The Lancaster House Constitution also provided for the protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, and the right to vote.
Constitutional Referendum of 2000
In 2000, a constitutional referendum was held in Zimbabwe to adopt a new constitution that would provide for a more democratic governance structure, protection of human rights, and land reform. However, the proposed constitution was rejected by the majority of voters, with the opposition arguing that it did not go far enough in addressing issues of democracy, human rights, and land reform.
In 1997, the government of Zimbabwe established a Constitutional Commission to review the existing constitution and propose amendments that would promote democratic governance, human rights, and the rule of law. The commission produced a draft constitution that was debated in parliament and underwent significant amendments before being presented to the public for consideration.
On 12 February 2000, Zimbabwe held a constitutional referendum that sought to approve the new constitution proposed by the Constitutional Commission.
The referendum was fiercely contested, with the ruling party, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), and the opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), taking opposing sides. ZANU-PF supported the proposed constitution, while the MDC opposed it, arguing that it did not go far enough in promoting democracy and human rights.
The referendum failed to pass, with 54.7% of the voters rejecting the proposed constitution.
Constitutional Referendum of 2013
Following years of political instability and economic decline, the government of Zimbabwe established a Constitutional Select Committee in 2009 to draft a new constitution that would promote democratic governance, human rights, and the rule of law. The drafting process involved broad consultations with Zimbabweans from all walks of life and resulted in a draft constitution that was presented to parliament for debate and approval.
On 16 March 2013, Zimbabwe held a constitutional referendum that sought to approve the new constitution proposed by the Constitutional Select Committee. The proposed constitution contained significant changes to the governance of Zimbabwe, including:
- Limiting the powers of the President and providing for the separation of powers between the executive, legislature, and judiciary.
- Introducing devolution of power to local authorities and communities.
- Protecting fundamental human rights and freedoms, including the right to a fair trial, freedom of expression, and the right to vote.
ZANU-PF supported the proposed constitution, while the MDC initially opposed it but later endorsed it, arguing that it represented significant progress towards democratic governance and the protection of human rights.
The referendum was conducted in a peaceful and orderly manner, with no significant incidents of electoral irregularities reported. The result was overwhelmingly in favour of the proposed constitution, with 93% of the voters approving it. The new constitution came into force on May 22, 2013.
The adoption of the new constitution also paved the way for national elections in 2013, which were held in July and saw the re-election of President Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF.
Where to download the Constitution of Zimbabwe
The Constitution of Zimbabwe can be downloaded in Word and PDF formats from the links below courtesy of Veritas Zimbabwe:
- Download Constitution of Zimbabwe [Updated to 2021]- PDF Format
- Download Constitution of Zimbabwe [Updated to 2021] – Word Format
You can also download the Constitution of Zimbabwe from the following websites:
- Veritas Zimbabwe – http://www.veritaszim.net/node/2080
- Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – https://www.justice.gov.zw/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=22&Itemid=110