Lancaster House Constitution defective


THE Lancaster House Constitution was a defective document designed by the British to ensure that white settler-privileges were prolonged – at least, for a few more years.
To the British, what mattered most was the kith and kin connection as opposed to the bloody liberation struggle that sought to end institutionalised discriminatory practices.
It did not matter that the Patriotic Front (PF) had restored the dignity of the British crown by forcing Ian Smith to renounce his rebellious Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI).
That counted for nothing.
What else could explain the provision in the Constitution, crafted by the British, which stipulated the transfer of land on a ‘willing-buyer willing-seller’ basis?
For a start, how many of the privileged whites, some of whom had been given their fertile farms gratis, as a reward for their contributions in an imperialist war among Europeans, would be willing to sell their fortune.
The main reason for blacks to sacrifice their lives in the liberation struggle was to get back their land, which had been ‘stolen’ by white settlers.
The least Lord Carrington, who chaired the Lancaster Conference, could have done was to be seen to acknowledge this sobering fact.
Both PF leaders, Cdes Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo, were able to see through the empty pledges of financial aid from the Americans and British.
But these were promises of cash assistance to buy back our own land which they had robbed us of.
And yet if it were not for these hyped Lancaster House talks, the PF forces were on the verge of hammering Smith into submission and coming up with a more appropriate document.
It was not the land issue only which betrayed the bias of the British towards their kith and kin.
Lord Carrington was not ashamed to promote racism by having a House of Assembly of 100 seats with 20 reserved for whites.
And those whites, as a block, could veto any proposed changes to the defective Constitution.
Perhaps Lord Carrington had chosen to forget that the white settlers, who were a distinct minority, had governed Rhodesia for over 90 years without giving the majority blacks any opportunity to influence events.
After all, the liberation war was aimed at ridding the country of any forms of racial preferences.
Lord Carrington, a whole Government minister of a country which purports to be opposed to racism, should have known better.
Even if we look at the judicature, the Lancaster House Constitution favoured whites.
The law was Roman-Dutch or English common law with the appointment to the High Court bench requiring massive experience.
This was in a country where being a High Court judge was a preserve of whites.
This was meant to remain like so for some time, since blacks needed time to acquire experience from after independence.
It is a miracle that the Ceasefire lasted.
It was heavily tilted in favour of white Rhodesians with the backing of a handful of monitors of British origin from selected Commonwealth countries.
It was very tempting for the Rhodesians to plot the annihilation of the assembled liberation fighters.
Perhaps the then recent setbacks at Mapai and Mavonde must have made them think twice.
These and many other aspects made the Lancaster House Constitution an unpalatable document.
No wonder at one point the conference almost went into disarray when the PF decided to walk out and resume the war.
The intervention of the Frontline States, who were confident that the PF would win the independence elections, saved the day.
Patriotic Front co-leader President Mugabe is on record saying the Lancaster House Constitution was no cause for celebration when victory on the battlefield was in sight.
With the birth of Zimbabwe, the onus was on the democratically-elected Government to democratise the Lancaster House document.
This has been, and continues to be, done.


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