African Journal of
Political Science and International Relations

  • Abbreviation: Afr. J. Pol. Sci. Int. Relat.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN: 1996-0832
  • DOI: 10.5897/AJPSIR
  • Start Year: 2007
  • Published Articles: 403


Habermas’ deliberative democracy and the Zimbabwean constitution-making process

Ephraim Taurai Gwaravanda
Philosophy Section, Great Zimbabwe University, Zimbabwe.
Email: [email protected]

  •  Accepted: 14 February 2012
  •  Published: 28 February 2012


The paper applies Habermas’ theory of deliberative democracy to argue for an objective, non-partisan and non-evil outcome in the Zimbabwean constitution-making process. Habermas’ deliberative democracy is particularly useful because it emphasizes rational discourse and it tries to put away prejudices and egoistic tendencies in constitutional making. For Zimbabweans, non-partisan thinking assumes political equality between human beings as moral persons who have a conception of rationality. In the current constitution-making process, main political parties [(Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Movement for Democratic Change-Morgan Tsvangirai Faction (MDC-T)] have bargained and campaigned for favoured positions concerning the sticking points of the constitution. The said political parties have used a calculus of party interests to influence public opinion on controversial issues in the constitution such as, among others, executive powers, land, war veterans, media and citizenship. Habermas’ deliberative democracy entails that Zimbabweans should not be disadvantaged by partisan thinking. It is immoral for political parties to tailor principles so as to fit into their existing power structures. Party inclinations and aspirations should not override the views of the grassroots people. The opinion rival of the two main political parties, as the paper argues, creates a slippery slope scenario whereby the media, student unions, trade unions and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have flanked behind either MDC-T or ZANU PF perceptions. From a logical point of view, such thinking has created a false dichotomy thereby silencing and ignoring a wide range of alternative viewpoints which transcend partisan views. Further, the paper argues that the future of Zimbabwe, as enshrined in the proposed constitution, ought not to be sacrificed in the attempt to achieve political domination since the future of Zimbabwe is great, and lies beyond party politics. What is constitutionally desirable for Zimbabweans must be reasonable rather than just party inclined and manipulated.


Key words: Habermas, deliberative democracy, constitution-making, Zimbabwe, rationality.


GNU, Government of national unity; ZANU PF, Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front; MDC-T, Movement for Democratic Change-Morgan Tsvangirai Faction; MDC,Movement for Democratic Change; Copac, Constitution Parliamentary Committee; NGOs, non-governmental organizations, NCA, National Constitutional Assembly.