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Zimbabwe adopts controversial amendments as MDC pulls out counter proposals
August 26, 2005

HARARE — Zimbabwe 's Parliament yesterday adopted controversial constitutional amendments, a stage preceding a vote for the changes to become law while the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party withdrew its counter-amendments after the ruling ZANU PF party threatened to shoot down the motion.

Parliament adopted 26 clauses of the Constitutional Amendment Bill with minor changes despite protests from the MDC MPs who were outnumbered.

The Bill will now be put to the vote next Tuesday and ZANU PF requires a two-thirds majority out of the 150-member parliament for the amendments to become part of Zimbabwe 's supreme law.

ZANU PF won 78 seats in the disputed March 31 parliamentary election. But President Robert Mugabe's party is assured of support from 20 unelected Members of Parliament directly and indirectly appointed to the House by the President and the 10 traditional chiefs, who were elected to Parliament by their peers and have always voted with the ruling party.

The Bill seeks among other things to ban individuals from challenging the seizure of their land in court, the setting up of a senate, and allowing authorities to withdraw passports from individuals suspected of travelling outside the country to conduct “terrorist” activities.

MDC spokesman on legal affairs David Coltart presented the opposition's version of amendments on Thursday but immediately withdrew the 121 page document after indications from Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa that the ruling party would shoot down the amendments.

The MDC's alternative constitutional amendment document sought to counter the government Bill on the emotional land issue by proposing that fair compensation should be paid for seized farms as well as securing the rights of individuals from eviction from their properties by the government.

“Everyone has the right not to be evicted from their home and not to have their home demolished, unless an order of court, made after consideration of all the relevant circumstances, has authorised the eviction or demolition,” the MDC said in its document.

The opposition also said every Zimbabwean should have “immunity from expulsion from Zimbabwe ” and that every citizen had the “right to move freely in the country.”

According to the opposition document, the senate would comprise 60 people, of whom 50 would be voted into the upper chamber while the remainder would be elected from the Chiefs Council.

The government has proposed a senate with 66 members, 50 who will be voted for while President Robert Mugabe will appoint six and the remainder elected by the Chiefs Council.

The six appointed senators would bring to 26 the total number of legislators directly or indirectly handpicked by Mugabe, a situation opposition and human rights activists have said would further undermine democracy in the country. - ZimOnline

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