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Zimbabwe: Constitutional Bill signals Harare ready for IMF expulsion - analysts
August 31, 2005

HARARE -- A controversial government constitutional Bill railroaded through Parliament yesterday was the clearest sign yet that Harare may have "settled for the probability that it will be expelled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF)", analysts said.

President Robert Mugabe and his government were most likely to follow up Tuesday’s rights-curtailing Bill with more similarly repressive laws in the future as they put up a "brave couldn’t care face" to the international community, the analysts ominously warned.

"That they have passed this Bill even as the IMF is still in the country shows the government has settled for the probability that it will be expelled and go deeper into isolation," Harare-based economic analyst John Robertson told ZimOnline.

"Like North Korea, the message they are sending out is that we do not care about the IMF or the international community," said Robertson.

An IMF team has been in Zimbabwe since last week for critical consultations over the southern Africa country’s economic recovery programmes as well as its loan repayment plans to avoid expulsion by the Bretton Woods institution.

Robertson said the Bill that seeks to effectively nationalise agricultural land would scare away international investors and derail all efforts at reviving Zimbabwe’s comatose economy.

The new law was also a slap in the face for the IMF which emphasizes human and property rights and has in the past clashed with Mugabe over his seizure of farm land from whites.

Described earlier this week by the Law Society of Zimbabwe (LSZ) as a "direct and undisguised frontal assault" on the rights of Zimbabweans, the Bill bans private landowners from contesting seizure of their land by the state, while courts will be prohibited from hearing such appeals.

The new law that now awaits Mugabe’s signature before it can be effective, will allow the government to deny passports to its critics and will also create a 66-seat Senate. Mugabe has publicly said he wants to use to the Senate to appease disgruntled lieutenants in his ZANU PF party by rewarding them with seats in the upper chamber.

University of Zimbabwe political scientist Eldred Masunugure said the constitutional Bill demonstrated the government cared little about "people’s rights." The political scientist warned that Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party would use their absolute control of Parliament to unilaterally change Zimbabwe’s constitution.

Masunungure said: "This is one of the biggest assaults on democracy we have witnessed in this country and goes to show that we are dealing with a government that does not respect people’s rights .... sadly this will not be the last time the government will be coming with such amendments."

A confidential ZANU PF document leaked to the Press several months ago suggested the party wanted to alter the constitution to extend Mugabe’s term by another two years. The Zimbabwean leader’s term expires in 2008 but he could rule until 2010 if the constitution is amended.

According to the document, which ZANU PF and Mugabe have not denied, adding another two years to the ageing President’s term would allow his heir apparent Joyce Mujuru to understudy him before taking over. Mujuru is currently second Vice-President of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe is grappling its worst economic and political crisis since independence from Britain in 1980.

Critics blame the crisis on mismanagement and repression by Mugabe, the only ruler the country has ever known since the British left.

Expulsion by the IMF would be then last signal to other multilateral institutions, development agencies and donor groups to cut whatever little aid is still trickling to Harare. Creditors would also call back loans, a development sure to hasten the total collapse of Zimbabwe’s economy.

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