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New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
sets date for referendum
February 15, 2013
of delays and disagreements, it looks as if the three main political
parties in Zimbabwe have decided on a timetable - holding
a constitutional referendum in March followed by presidential
and parliamentary elections perhaps as early as July.
Given that it
has taken 4 ½ years since the signing of the Global
Political Agreement in 2008, it will come as a shock to many
that the referendum and elections will be held so soon - not
least the forces lining up behind a 'no- vote on the
that ZANU-PF and the two MDC factions are likely to push for a 'yes-
vote, the 'vote-no- campaign already faced an uphill
struggle. If the March 16th date is confirmed, it will give them
only a month to drum up support - reducing their chances even
And while some
argue that it is not as bad as feared but it is still far from ideal,
there is no doubt that some groups are fiercely opposed to the final
Madhuku - who leads the National
Constitutional Assembly and was instrumental in the previous,
successful 'no- campaign in the constitutional referendum
of 2000 - says this he will campaign against the draft constitution
because the document was produced through a politically negotiated
compromise rather than a truly people-driven process.
He is also extremely
critical of the final product for leaving too much power in the
hands of the president.
problem in Zimbabwe has been the concentration of power in the president,"
said Madhuku during a debate on the final draft
constitution hosted by the Open Society Initiative for Southern
Africa (OSISA). "If you have a very powerful president who
is not restrained by law, just restrained by their own good heart,
the law would simply allow them to go on and on and we create a
problem for our country. That problem has not been solved by the
current constitutional draft."
Socialist Organisation has also denounced the draft and urged
people to vote 'no-.
The COPAC Constitution
is a negotiated and elitist peace charter by the three parliamentary
political parties and their western backers," said the ISO
in a statement. "While gains have been made in relation to
the inclusion of some socio-economic, gender and labour rights,
a deeper look at the COPAC Draft shows that it fails to address
fundamental issues of severe poverty, gender and social inequality,
economic democratisation and full political democracy."
complained that same sex marriage is still banned and that the death
penalty remains - although not for women.
draft-s supporters point to a number of important gains and
argue that the current draft is a marked improvement on the previous,
much-amended Lancaster House Constitution.
Misihairabwi-Mushonga, who is Secretary-General of the smaller MDC
faction argued during the OSISA-debate that the document -
which she helped to draft - was not perfect but was certainly
better than leaving the current constitution in place.
that the draft gives women more rights and does limit presidential
powers, including introducing a two term limit - although
Mugabe could still serve another two terms before having to step
down at the ripe old age of 99.
She also argued
that the process of drafting the document had involved a large number
of Zimbabweans and had - most importantly - created
unprecedented space for debate and dialogue on key national issues.
"That opening up, I don-t think you can reverse it,"
she said. "It is a process which you can-t put a cost
to . . . but it was something that was crucial, that was important
for the people of Zimbabwe to have."
admitted that the process was not perfect but she urged the draft-s
opponents to be realistic and to accept that elections under the
new constitutional dispensation would be freer and fairer than before.
"Because we had to negotiate, it can-t be a 100 percent
document," she said. "But is it indeed so bad that you
think that it has not moved us forward?"
Clearly it has
in some spheres. For example, Nicole Fritz, the Executive Director
of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre (SALC) was adamant that
the new draft represented a big step forward for women-s rights.
"There are tremendous gains for women in this draft from equality
clauses to anti-discrimination to 50/50 representation on key commissions,"
also voiced a word of warning - constitutions are only as
good as the people who are tasked with upholding them. "As
good or bad as this constitution is, ultimately it will depend on
appointing people to judiciary and key commissions who are equal
to the task," she said.
All these pros
and cons will be fiercely debated over the next month. After that
- if the 'yes- campaign does triumph - all
eyes will be on the whether the country-s new supreme law
makes any difference to the conduct of the all-important elections
that are tentatively scheduled for July.
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