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endorses Zimbabwe constitutional change
Patricia Mpofu, ZimOnline
June 08, 2007
HARARE - President Robert
Mugabe's Cabinet ealier this week endorsed a draft amendment to
the country's Constitution, paving the way for the proposed Bill
to be tabled in Parliament.
18th amendment to a much criticized Constitution
bequeathed to Zimbabwe by former colonial power Britain seeks to
harmonise elections for president and Parliament next year, in a
plan Mugabe says is meant to save on administrative costs but which
critics say is just a ploy by the President to cling to power.
The amendment shall also
provide for the creation of a statutory human rights commission
to monitor human rights in the crisis-hit southern African country.
"We have agreed
on it. We are pushing it, it is just a matter of time before it
comes to Parliament," said Sikhanyiso Ndlovu, Minister of Information
Minister and chief government spokesman.
Ndlovu refused to be
drawn further on the matter because Cabinet discussions and resolutions
But sources told ZimOnline
there was fierce debate over the amendment forcing the Cabinet meeting
that started in the morning on Tuesday to drag on until about nine
o'clock in the evening.
According to the sources
although there was in the end general agreement to press ahead with
the constitutional amendment, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa
was asked to take back the draft amendment for fine tuning before
it could be brought to Parliament.
The constitutional Bill
is expected to be tabled in the House in August where the government
will use its absolute control of both chambers of Parliament to
ensure it sails through without hitches or delays.
Zimbabwe presently elects
a new Parliament after every five years and president after six
years, a situation the government has argued is too costly and could
be saved by terminating the life of the present Parliament that
was due to expire in 2010 and bring forward parliamentary elections
so they are held jointly with elections for president in 2008.
Mugabe, whose term ends
in 2008, had initially proposed that elections be held in 2010,
which would have given him two more years in office without having
to face the electorate. The plan was however rejected by his own
ruling ZANU PF party.
The 83-year old President
in power since Zimbabwe's 1980 independence from Britain has said
he will stand for another five-year term next year.
Moves by Mugabe to amend
the Constitution appear to render irrelevant efforts by South African
President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in Zimbabwe's crisis.
Mbeki was last March
asked by Southern African Development Community heads of state and
government to lead efforts to resolve Zimbabwe's eight-year political
and economic crisis by facilitating dialogue between Mugabe's government
and the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party.
The dialogue -- if it
takes off - is expected to focus chiefly on constitutional reforms
to harmonise elections, level the playing field and ensure free
and fair polls.
The MDC has particularly
opposed plans by the government to want use its parliamentary majority
to make unilateral changes to the Constitution.
Meanwhile South African
deputy foreign affairs minister Aziz Pahad has said it was "vital"
to see urgency from all sides in Zimbabwe to get talks between the
Aziz would not confirm
or deny reports of meetings scheduled to be held in Pretoria between
ZANU PF and the MDC.
"Until there is
a decision to officially indicate what meetings are planned and
what meeting have already taken place I would not be able to comment
on any reports that have already appeared," Pahad said on Thursday.
Zimbabwe has since 1999
been grappling with an agonising political and economic meltdown,
critics blame on repression and mismanagement by Mugabe, a charge
the veteran leader denies.
The crisis has seen inflation
shooting to more than 3 700 percent while the southern African country
is short of food, essential medicines, fuel, electricity, hard cash
and just about every basic survival commodity. --ZimOnline
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