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push for Yes vote in Zimbabwe's referendum
On 16 March
Zimbabweans will vote in a referendum on whether to adopt
or reject a draft constitution for which the three major political
parties have publicly endorsed a Yes vote.
of a new constitution was one of the requirements of the Global
Political Agreement (GPA), which formed a power-sharing agreement
between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and the two factions
of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), following the violently
contested presidential elections of 2008.
After the referendum,
Zimbabweans will vote in general elections slated for July, either
under a new constitution or the current one.
A large cross-section
of society - including women, war veterans and the youth - have
given the draft constitution a thumbs up, but Lovemore Madhuku,
chairperson of the civil society group National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), said the fact that all three
political parties support a Yes vote on the referendum should sound
“The three political
parties are seduced by some of the constitutional provisions which
safeguard the president from answering questions in parliament,"
said Madhuku, whose organization is encouraging Zimbabweans to vote
No on the new constitution. "The current draft does not change
the features of the current constitution in terms of presidential
powers; the office will still retain sweeping powers.”
The NCA has
approached the Supreme
Court to have the date of the referendum postponed, arguing that
Zimbabweans have not had enough time to study the draft. The NCA
opposed the drafting process from the beginning, saying it should
not be led by political parties but by an independent constitutional
Tecla Chisvo, a 55-year-old
farmer in Chegutu, Mashonaland West, said she was unhappy with both
the process of drafting the new constitution and its final form
and would vote against it.
and consultation meetings, we were told by political party representatives
what to say in terms of what should be contained in the constitution.
That obviously meant what we wanted included was not accommodated.
Even now, it is political parties that are telling us to vote Yes,"
Jabulani Sibanda, chairperson
of the militant National Liberation War Veterans Association, which
is closely allied with ZANU-PF, told IRIN that they would vote in
favour of the draft.
“There are so many
things that we are not happy about in this draft constitution, but
like many constitutions or agreements, we have to negotiate with
representatives of our former colonizers and the devils amongst
ourselves. We will vote Yes in the referendum and allow it to pass
because we will win the next elections by a huge majority. We can
always make progressive amendments in parliament,” Sibanda
The Constitution Select
Committee (Copac), a coalition of parlimentary representatives from
the three parties, had initially printed only 90,000 copies of the
draft constitution for a country with a registered voting population
of more than 5 million.
Of that figure, 70,000
were in English and 20,000 in local languages. They also printed
200,000 abridged versions of the draft constitution in the different
Noma Dube, a civil servant
in Matabeleland South, told IRIN that rural communities were largely
unaware of the impending referendum. "There has not been adequate
publicity around it. People have not seen the draft, and because
the entire process was politicized, people generally shunned the
process and lost interest."
The greatest outcry has
come from people living with disabilities. Abraham Mateta, a visually
impaired legal expert, told IRIN that Copac had only printed 200
Braille copies of the draft constitution for a population of 40,000
“The current draft
constitution is a sad reflection of Zimbabwean attitudes towards
people with disability," he told IRIN. "To start with,
the inputs from people with disabilities during outreach meetings
were ignored and welfarist and charity models adopted.”
He said this would relegate
people with disabilities to chores such as shoe mending and making
Said Mateta, “While
the draft is clear on what interventions the State should make with
groups such as the youth, elderly and war veterans, on disability,
it says interventions shall be made subject to availability of funds,
which clearly implies that disability is expensive and that disabled
people are second class citizens.”
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