'Few changes' to Zim constitution draft

2012-10-24 07:50


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Harare - No major changes are expected to Zimbabwe's draft constitution after two days of discussions between 1 000 representatives of civic groups and political parties which ended on Tuesday, an official taking part told AFP.

"If there are going to be any changes to the draft constitution, they will be very minimal," said the well-placed official, who was not authorised to comment.

Delegates had gathered in Harare to discuss the text, which will be put to a referendum and is then meant to underpin free and fair elections, ending an uncomfortable power-sharing deal between long-term President Robert Mugabe and his political nemesis, Morgan Tsvangirai.

The pair were forced into a coalition government to end deadly violence in disputed elections in 2008.

The new basic law would bolster the power of parliament, set a 10-year presidential term limit and strip away presidential immunity.

"This [text] is now an official national document that we must all help to popularise ahead of referendum," said Douglas Mwonzora, co-chairperson of the Constitutional Select Committee, a group of lawmakers that put the text together. Mwonzora vowed to mount a "vigorous publicity campaign".

A referendum date is yet to be announced, but the text has to be taken to parliament before Zimbabweans make their voices heard.

The process of drafting the new constitution was plagued by chronic delays and violence at public meetings.

In their opening addresses at the conference, Mugabe and Tsvangirai appealed for peace in the country ahead of the referendum.

Mugabe, 88, in power since the country's independence from Britain in 1980, wants new elections without delay amid speculation about his health and divisions within his party.

On Monday he repeated his statement that elections will be held in March 2013.

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