Zimbabwe group rejects draft constitution

2013-02-05 20:10
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (File, AFP)

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. (File, AFP)

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Harare - A pro-democracy group that has long fought for an equitable new constitution for Zimbabwe said on Tuesday that a draft text still gives the president too much power.

"The... draft is neither people-driven nor democratic and must be rejected," the head of the National Constitutional Assembly told journalists.

The proposed basic law, which is before parliament and will be put to a referendum later this year, ignores most suggestions received from the public, said NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku.

"The constitution leaves all powers to the president, who is allowed to do what he wants," he said, adding that the NCA would call on Zimbabweans to vote "no" in the referendum.

The NCA led a successful campaign in 2000 to reject an earlier draft basic law, but its influence is thought to have waned in the southern African country, long mired in economic and political crises.

Both long-serving President Robert Mugabe and his nemesis and partner in a power-sharing government, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, have endorsed the new text.

A new constitution is a key reform needed ahead of new polls after deadly 2008 elections.

The new draft basic law is the first to set a presidential term limit - to two five-year terms - and to abolish presidential immunity.

Power over parliament

Mugabe, who first came to power in the former Rhodesia as prime minister at independence in 1980, has been head of state since 1987. He is now 88.

But the proposed new constitution still gives the president the power to appoint government ministers, security chiefs, senior government officials and ambassadors, and to convene the cabinet.

The president would also have final say over the appointment of judges and have the power to dissolve parliament.

Madhuku noted that the draft fails to require the president to answer questions in parliament, and that the head of state would be allowed to declare a state of emergency or war without consulting parliament.

The NCA also deplored a clause in the draft charter that exempts women, juveniles and the elderly from the death penalty.

"If the death penalty is retained, it must not be applied in this discriminatory way," Madhuku said.

Read more on:    zimbabwe  |  southern africa

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