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government introduces controversial law reforms
August 18, 2005
- President Robert Mugabe's government presented a bill on Thursday
that would let authorities effectively nationalise all seized farmland
and create a controversial second legislative chamber.
Nine of the
opposition Movement for Democratic Change's (MDC) 41 deputies earlier
marched from the party's headquarters to parliament in a token protest
against the proposals.
ZANU-PF took a two thirds majority in parliamentary elections in
March -- criticised as neither free nor fair by the opposition and
Western nations -- and is using this mandate to introduce a raft
of changes to the constitution.
"I want to assure
honourable members and the nation at large that ZANU-PF will use
this majority to effect constitutional changes which we promised
the people during the run-up to the March 2005 elections," Justice
Minister Patrick Chinamasa told parliament to murmurs of disapproval
from opposition deputies.
include barring individuals whose land has been seized from making
a court challenge except on the amount of compensation, setting
up a Senate and a single electoral body and the imposition of travel
curbs on Zimbabweans suspected of "engaging in terrorist training
who protested on Thursday said the proposed amendments which they
say violate democratic rights.
"What we are
saying to the people of Zimbabwe is that today we've broken the
yoke of fear and bondage. We may be (nine) but we've started saying
to the people of Zimbabwe 'stand up and say the things that matter
to you," MDC legislator Priscilla Misihairabwi told reporters during
said most of its MPs were held up by parliamentary committee meetings.
But critics charged that the absence of a big number of MDC legislators
sent a signal that they were not serious enough about their protests.
It was the second
time opposition members have protested since 2000.
The MDC has
spearheaded anti-government protests before but in June 2003 security
forces quashed nationwide MDC led protests in what was dubbed final
push against Mugabe's government.
early this month dropped treason charges against MDC leader Morgan
Tsvangirai over the failed protests.
party has called for a new constitution that will limit the tenure
of a president to two terms in office, create a new "independent"
electoral body and for any senate to be elected by proportional
representation to avoid it being filled with Mugabe's appointees.
Senate plan calls for 65 members, of which 50 would be elected,
the rest going to special interest groups, traditional chiefs and
the changes to the land laws, saying out of 6240 farms seized by
the government to resettle blacks, only 1126 had been legally acquired.
He accused former white farmers of clogging courts with "unnecessary"
Mugabe, in power
since independence from Britain in 1980, denies critics' charges
of mismanaging the economy. He says the MDC, which has come closest
to unseating him from power, is working with his foreign opponents
to sabotage the economy.
Zimbabwe leader has rejected talks with the opposition as part of
efforts to resolve his country's problems, saying he would rather
talk to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who he sees as his chief Western
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