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Mugabe signs divisive amendments
Mail & Guardian (SA)
September 12, 2005

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has quietly signed into law constitutional amendments restricting property and citizenship rights and creating a Senate, state radio reported on Monday.

Mugabe signed the amendments into law on Friday, the same day the International Monetary Fund (IMF) deferred a decision for six months on whether to expel Zimbabwe.

The opposition said Mugabe had delayed signing amendments that would strengthen government repression until he had secured a delay in the IMF expulsion decision.

The constitutional changes bar white farmers from legally challenging land grabs and restrict travel for government opponents, state radio reported on Monday.

Mugabe, who is in Cuba on a state visit, told students he approved the Bill adopted by Parliament two weeks ago.

"He has assented to the Constitutional Amendment Bill number 17," the radio report said.

The constitutional changes prevent Zimbabweans deemed as posing a threat to the state from travelling abroad, and create an Upper House of Parliament, which critics say will strengthen the ruling Zanu-PF's grip on power.

Minister of Justice Patrick Chinamasa has defended the move to deny passports to Zimbabweans who "gallivant the world ... asking for military invasion of Zimbabwe or the imposition of official and unofficial sanctions".

Mugabe said elections for the 50 contested seats in the Upper House or Senate "will take place before the end of the year", according to the radio report. The house will have another 16 non-elected members.

The constitutional changes allow the state to assume ownership of farms immediately after a property has been listed for expropriation, making it impossible for white farmers to seek legal redress.

The government has argued that the change will bring its land-reform programme full circle. About 4 000 white-owned commercial farms have been seized since 2000 and given to landless blacks under the programme.

But the farmers are still fighting in courts to get their land back.

Mugabe also defended an urban demolitions blitz that has left hundreds of thousands homeless and destitute.

"It is baffling to see Zimbabwe's detractors criticising the humanitarian programme, yet the same detractors watched and did nothing to protect the lives of thousands of black Americans who perished in Hurricane Katrina," the radio quoted Mugabe as saying. -- Sapa-AFP, Sapa-AP

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