Independent Lens | Democrats
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Watch Monday, April 18, 2016 at midnight on WMHT TV

In the wake of long-time leader Robert Mugabe’s contentious 2008 presidential win, Zimbabwe took a historic step forward by convening a bipartisan constitutional committee as the country tried to evolve past its years of corrupt, authoritarian leadership. Two men from rival political parties were appointed to the committee: Paul Mangwana and Douglas Mwonzora, opposites in politics and personality, but both passionate and united in their ambition to deliver a historic new foundation for a reformed nation. Should they fail at securing maximum influence for their respective parties on the provisions in the new constitution, dire consequences loom for each. Democrats was filmed over the course of three years with unprecedented access to the two political rivals overseeing the committee, offering a rare, first-hand account of a country’s first steps towards democracy.

Following a bitter war of liberation, Robert Mugabe became president of Zimbabwe in 1980. Under his leadership, the country made educational and economic progress until Mugabe evolved into a more dictatorial leader as opponents were put down and civil rights restricted. In 1999, in light of rising demands for reform, a new party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), rose up to challenge Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party. After a decade of strife, in 2009 the two parties formed a coalition government with Mugabe agreeing to share power with the leader of the MDC, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. It was up to the rival parties’ two representatives, Mangwana and Mwonzora, to rise to the daunting challenge of creating a constitution to lead their nation to prosperity and freedom. But with Mugabe increasingly stubborn about stepping down and both constitutional leaders facing death threats, will the nation move forward or erupt into chaos? 

By documenting the contentious process of drafting a new constitution, Democrats offers a fascinating glimpse at the political mechanics of a modern African country struggling toward democratic change.