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This article participates on the following special index pages:
New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
and the Draft Constitution [Part I] - Constitution Watch 5/2013
February 18, 2013
draft new constitution that will be put to a Referendum was gazetted
on 15th February.
together with COPAC’s report,
was presented to Parliament
on 6th February in accordance with COPAC’s obligation under
article 6.1(a)(v) of the Global
Political Agreement [GPA] to “report to Parliament on
its recommendations over the content of a New Constitution for Zimbabwe”.
The proceedings in Parliament were concluded on 7th February, with
both Houses having accepted both the report and the recommended
This paved the
way for the next stage in the constitution-making
process: the holding of the Referendum at which voters will
decide whether or not the draft constitution should be adopted as
the new Constitution of Zimbabwe.
Decision to Proclaim Referendum on 16th March
decision to have the Referendum on 16th March was announced
by the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs on 13th
February. The confirmation of this date by a proclamation, signed
by President Mugabe on 14th and gazetted on 15th February, has left
many Zimbabweans reeling in shock and disbelief.
of the GPA lays down that a Referendum must be held “within
three months of the conclusion of the debate”. This clearly
indicates that there must be adequate time for the people to study
and consider the draft before answering the momentous question whether
or not they want the draft constitution to replace the present constitution.
It is essential that voters have a sufficient period within which
to make an informed decision on whether to vote Yes or No or, perhaps,
to abstain. And to make an informed decision, voters will need to
have access to the draft in a language they understand and time
to study it and to listen, not only to COPAC’S planned explanation
of the draft, but also to the views of civil society organisations
and all political parties, especially those left out of the constitution
Too little time
for the people to study the draft for the new Constitution of Zimbabwe,
on which they have to vote in the Referendum, gives rise to the
risk that the Referendum result will not be accepted as a genuine
reflection of the people’s wishes, but rather dismissed as
the result of obedient masses rubber-stamping the instructions of
the 16th March is Totally Unreasonable
justify the complaint that the 16th March is much too early to hold
the Referendum. They can be summed up as:
Act and regulations need to be aligned to the amended Electoral
- ZEC have
said they need at least two months’ notice to organise the
Referendum properly. ZEC is still without a Chairperson, and the
finance for the Referendum has not been made available.
- The people
will not have enough time to learn about the draft constitution
before voting on it – which runs counter to all the politicians’
fine talk about respecting and empowering the people and promoting
a culture of constitutionalism
- Civil society,
on whom much of the burden of informing and educating the people
rests [as COPAC and Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary
Affairs plans to inform the people are not only not adequate but
driven by party political and not a national agenda] are outraged
at the short notice – they need more time to be able fulfil
their obligations to their constituencies as they would wish to.
points will be expanded on in Part II.
Could Still be Changed
There is no
legal obstacle to changing the date to allow a more reasonable length
of time for people to consider the draft and how to cast their vote.
All that is needed is an amending Proclamation [section 21 of the
Interpretation Act states that a power to make a statutory instrument
includes the power to amend it]. The case for a later Referendum
date is strong.
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