Zimbabwe finalises draft charter curbing president’s powers

2012-07-21 07:28

Harare – Zimbabwe lawmakers have finalised a draft constitution that curtails presidential powers and limits terms to 10 years, part of key reforms ahead of elections, a minister said yesterday.

The proposed document, which will be subject to a referendum, was crafted by experts from the main political parties to a power-sharing government that has been in place since a violence-marred 2008 election.

President Robert Mugabe – one of Africa’s longest-ruling leaders, in power for 32 years – was forced into the power-sharing deal with arch rival Morgan Tsvangirai to avoid a descent into bloody conflict.

Mugabe (88), trying to get out of the power-sharing deal, in recent months tried to push for new elections without a new constitution.

But the southern African regional leaders who brokered the post-electoral peace deal appeared to have impressed on him at a June summit that elections had to take place under a new constitution.

Eric Matinenga, a minister from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) responsible for constitutional affairs, told reporters yesterday: “We have had one president since 1980, and it is the feeling of most people that this has been the biggest weakness of the country.”

He added: “The draft recognises that gone are the days when governance was entrusted in the hand of the ‘strong man’.”

The draft constitution would require the head of state to consult parliament and the cabinet on key appointments.

The new draft charter also “proposes term limits for the presidency, the executive and independent institutions in the public sector and other state-controlled entities, including the security services”, said Matinenga.

It also protects a serving president from prosecution, but the immunity falls away when the president leaves office.

The draft constitution also provides for compensation for white farmers who were forced off their
land under Mugabe’s controversial land reforms and protects the property rights of the new farmers.

It also provides for a new national peace and reconciliation commission that would be “encouraging people to tell the truth about the past, facilitating the making of amends”, said the document seen by AFP yesterday.

The new document, which has been worked on for three years, will be put to a public conference at the end of August and then to a referendum at a date yet to be announced.

EU ministers, hoping to encourage the reform process, meet next Monday and are planning to offer to resume aid and suspend most sanctions against Zimbabwe once a referendum on the new constitution has been organised, diplomatic sources said on condition of anonymity.

They would, however, maintain sanctions against a “small core” of people, including Mugabe.

“We think now is a critical moment to encourage the process of reform and incentify the reformers,” a diplomatic source in Brussels said, “it is time for the EU to shift its positions.”

The EU in May said it was involved in a “re-engagement” process with Zimbabwe after the country’s leaders agreed to draft the new constitution.

The ministers will offer to lift sanctions against most of the 112 Zimbabweans still under an EU asset freeze and travel ban imposed in 2002, sources said.

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