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Civic groups say people should vote on Mugabe term
Loughty Dube, The Independent (Zimbabwe)
January 05, 2007

CIVIC organisations and political parties have said a referendum is the only way Zimbabweans can make a decision on the debate to harmonise parliamentary and presidential elections and the extension of President Mugabe's term of office by two years.

Debate has been raging after Zanu PF provinces tabled before the party's conference in Goromonzi last month a resolution affirming that the presidential and parliamentary elections should be held at the same time in 2010.

However, the party deferred making a decision on the resolution after disagreements on whether the harmonised elections should be held in 2008 or in 2010 and what the enabling legislation should look like.

Civic organisations and political parties who spoke to the Zimbabwe Independent this week said the decision to harmonise elections should not be left to parliament alone to decide but to Zimbabweans through a national referendum.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson, Reginald Matchaba-Hove, said under a working democracy there is no way a nation can extend the term of its leader without going through a referendum.

"There is no way a parliament with 30 appointed MPs and others elected through a disputed 2002/5 parliamentary election can use a technical two thirds majority to extend the term of an unpopular leader without

going through a referendum," Matchaba-Hove said.

"If the issue were to go to a referendum, even Zanu PF supporters would vote 'No' to an extension of Mugabe's term because the majority do not want him at the helm but are afraid to come out openly and say so."

National Constitutional Assembly chairman, Lovemore Madhuku, while concurring that a national referendum would be ideal, cast a dark cloud over its outcome.

"A referendum can be held but how level is the playing field? If the referendum is held fairly it should be under conditions where there is no Posa or Aippa and under conditions where everyone campaigns freely and people have a right to make a choice without being harassed or beaten," Madhuku said.

The decision by Zanu PF to delay elections has already come under fire from many quarters, with former PF-Zapu secretary-general Welshman Mabhena saying Mugabe is afraid of leaving office because of the sins he has committed while in power.

The Morgan Tsvangirai faction of the MDC supported the idea of a referendum but said history would always repeat itself where Zanu PF would use violence to cow Zimbabweans to vote in ways that favour the ruling party.

Party spokesperson Nelson Chamisa said a referendum, if held under the proper framework, was legitimate in that all Zimbabweans would make a decision on any issue.

He said Zanu PF's attempt to railroad constitutional changes in parliament should be resisted by all Zimbabweans as most MPs were not legitimate.

"Zanu PF should not be allowed to railroad certain changes through a perforated parliament that has MPs who have pending court cases over their election. But we know that the majority of Zanu PF MPs are against the extension of Mugabe's term and they should help Zimbabwe by resisting his evil intentions," Chamisa said.

Zimrights national chairman, Kucaca Phulu, however said holding a referendum over Mugabe's intention to stay in power was a waste of time as this was a Zanu PF matter.

"The amendments that President Mugabe proposes in parliament for hanging onto power are illegal and Zanu PF wants to force people to accept its decisions. To conduct a referendum on the issue would be a waste of time and resources," Phulu said.

He said if Mugabe's term was extended that decision would only benefit Zanu PF.

Chamisa and Madhuku said Zimbabwe urgently needed a new constitution that would create a conducive framework for conducting referendums and future elections.

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