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Zimbabweans brace for constitutional referendum
Givemore Chipere, Community Radio Harare
March 14, 2013
go for a referendum to determine whether the Draft
Constitution produced by the parliament–led COPAC team should
be adopted as the country’s governing charter.
Electoral Commission (ZEC), which is mandated to preside over all
elections in the country, has already announced that all is set
for the referendum. Funding has been secured, 12 million ballot
papers have been printed and are to be dispatched to the country’s
10 provinces, polling stations have been identified and all look
set for the elections. All the major political parties in the country
have been mobilising for the ‘Yes’ vote and SADC observer
teams are already in the country.
also come along the way with civil society organisations writing
to President Robert Mugabe in protest
against ZEC’s decision to bar some civic groups (on grounds
that they are under police probe) from observing the elections.
There is also the issue of the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA) which approached
the Supreme Court arguing the referendum should be postponed to
a later date to allow Zimbabweans to have adequate time to study
the draft charter. Although this application was thrown out, it
helped to cement concerns raised by many that they the larger part
of the population never had access to the draft charter, let alone
understanding its contents.
Amidst all these
developments, Talking Harare went around the capital city and neighboring
rural areas to ask ordinary people what they think about the processes
leading to the referendum and whether they are going to vote for
or against the draft constitution.
Our first port
of call was Shamva at Chipangura Business Centre where we spoke
to a local villager, Jack Jimu, who is also a small business operator.
‘We are going into the referendum to vote for it because local
political and traditional leadership have said we must vote ‘Yes’
and this is what we will do. We also like the document because it
limits presidential term limits and this is something positive given
where we are coming from,’ said Jimu.
At Arda Centre
in Mrehwa, Miriam Manjoro said people in the community will simply
go and vote yes even though they have not seen the document. ‘We
did not see the draft copies but we hear the document empowers women
and was agreed upon by all political parties which means we will
not be victimized for voting ‘Yes’. We also hear that
our children will go to primary schools without paying anything
and this is very positive,’ said Manjoro who added that she
would want to see the peaceful environment currently being experienced
to be extended to harmonized elections set for later this year.
that the new constitution will allow us to say whatever we want
about politics and that we won’t be beaten up for saying out
our political views so we will vote for it,’ explained Reydon
Sikelemu of Rapture Farm near Goromonzi.
Murefu of Chihota, had other views. ‘Whilst it is good that
there is a new constitution, I do not think it is going to change
anything because we have seen good laws in the country being ignored
when it comes to implementation. For example we have seen people
being arrested, detained for a long time and then discharged without
charge yet the country’s laws prohibit this. What is needed
is to have leadership that respects its people first and then everything
will follow,’ Murefu added.
of Mhondoro echoed Murefu’s views, saying a new constitution
which is not respected by the leadership will not help bring democracy
and development in the country. She added that there is need to
incorporate ordinary people’s views in development and political
issues. ‘We want the police and leaders to respect the laws
of the country and leaders must know that they do not have monopoly
over knowledge and ideas. If they appear as if they are superior
in all aspects, ordinary people will keep their ideas and views
to themselves but may sabotage elite–driven programmes as
has been happening here in Mhondoro where the local member of parliament
(name withheld) has been shunned by people because he thinks he
knows everything,’ said Catherine.
In Harare, Talking
Harare visited Highfield, Mabvuku, Chitungwiza and Dzivarasekwa
to hear what residents think about the referendum.
people here will go and vote for the new constitution for the sake
of progress, we know that even if this document is not the best,
it has some good things like guaranteeing the protection of human
rights. However, there are potential problems here because there
is a group of suspected Zanu (PF) youths who are going around demanding
people’s identity cards details. They claim to have been sent
by ZEC (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) but they are also threatening
that after the referendum they are going to beat up people who do
not support their party,’ said a woman identified as Mai Masaninga
Kembo Mutale said people in the suburb were ready for the referendum
and that they support the draft constitution. ‘We want the
new constitution because we hear it will make councils operate autonomously
as Chombo (Local Government Minister) will no longer have powers
to meddle in operations of local authorities. This will certainly
help to improve service delivery,’ said an excited Mutale.
of Mabvuku said she supports the draft charter as it bars security
chiefs from being politically partisan. ‘I think you are aware
that this area has lost a number of people who were abducted and
killed by suspected state security agents simply because these people
were anti–Zanu (PF). So, we will vote ‘Yes’ for
this constitution,’ said Mandaza.
Marembo of Chitungwiza stands to differ. He says the new constitution
does not represent ordinary people's needs as they were never given
a free opportunity to air their views. 'This constitution did not
come from the people, I think you still remember people were forced
to attend the meetings and coached by politicians on what to say.
Even after that, the so-called principals went on to make unilateral
changes to what had come out and so clearly, this is not a people's
document,' queried Marembo.
So, come Saturday
we will see whether people will go in their thousands to participate
in the referendum, and whether they will vote yes or no. But, from
observations and interviews held by Talking Harare, what is clear
is that people will vote ‘Yes’, perhaps peacefully and
it would be interesting to note whether that peace will be observed
during the upcoming harmonized elections.
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