THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector


Back to Index

Zimbabwe government introduces controversial law reforms
MacDonald Dzirutwe, Reuters
August 18, 2005

HARARE (Reuters) - 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.

Mugabe's ruling 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.

The amendments 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 abroad".


MDC legislators 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 the march.

MDC officials 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.

The government early this month dropped treason charges against MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai over the failed protests.

The opposition 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.

The government's Senate plan calls for 65 members, of which 50 would be elected, the rest going to special interest groups, traditional chiefs and Presidential appointees.

Chinamasa defended 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" challenges.

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.

The veteran 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 opponent.

Please credit if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.