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reports over constitutional changes ahead of elections
Tererai Karimakwenda, SW Radio Africa
September 14, 2007
The issue of a new constitution
ahead of the elections due next year has seen several conflicting
media reports this week. A report in the Zimbabwe Independent claims
that the Mbeki mediated talks between the MDC and ZANU-PF had produced
a surprising concession by the MDC to participate in the elections
without a new constitution. The report said both parties had agreed
a new constitution was no longer a priority, because there was not
enough time left before the elections, scheduled for March. But
diplomatic sources insist that a new constitution is still squarely
and firmly on the agenda, and discussions on this is;sue are still
Because the Zimbabwean
negotiating teams have basically been gagged by the mediator President
Thabo Mbeki, it is difficult to get information about any progress
in the talks.
From the outset both
factions of the opposition have insisted they would not take part
without a new constitution. The Independent said they had agreed
instead to make changes to Constitutional Amendment No 18, which
government tabled in parliament Wednesday. ZANU-PF reportedly made
"many significant concessions" as well, including an agreement
to amend the Public Order and Security Act that has been used to
ban opposition rallies.
Our sources said the
MDC team of secretary generals Welshman Ncube and Tendai Biti had
actually succeeded in negotiating for changes to Constitutional
Amendment 18 as it was tabled on Wednesday. They said a new revised
version of it will be re-introduced in parliament next Tuesday.
But if a new constitution is still being discussed, why would there
be discussions over amending, an amendment?
Dr Lovemore Madhuku,
chairperson of the National Constitutional Assembly, told Newsreel
he had heard an agreement was in place not to have a new constitution.
He said he was very disturbed by the news because it would be a
betrayal of the ordinary members of the MDC. He said: "There
is an elite group in the MDC that purports to represent the ordinary
members of the MDC, but any genuine consultation would reveal they
do not agree with elections under the current circumstances."
Asked if they would vote
he said: "Zimbabweans are desperate and I suspect they will
vote just to protest against Mugabe. But they will go with a heavy
Dr Madhuku said the issue
of the constitution is also at the heart of why the country's economy
is deteriorating. He said: "The basic weakness of our system
in Zimbabwe is that there is no constitutional framework for making
government accountable and remove it from office if it is incompetent."
He added that this is why the NCA is supporting the 2-day strike
action called for by the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, which
begins on the 19th September.
Observers have noted
that as Mugabe does not adhere to the current constitution, there
are no guarantees that a new one would make any difference.
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