Is change coming to Zimbabwe?

2013-03-17 07:10

Harare - Ballot counting was under way in Zimbabwe on Sunday after a referendum on a new constitution set to curb President Robert Mugabe's powers and usher in crucial elections in the violence-plagued nation.

The results from Saturday's landmark referendum are expected to show strong support for the text which would introduce presidential term limits, beef up parliament's powers and set elections to decide whether the 89-year-old Mugabe stays in power.

Mugabe has ruled uninterrupted since the country's independence in 1980, despite a series of disputed and violent polls and a severe economic crash propelled by hyper-inflation.

The draft constitution is part of an internationally backed plan to get the country on track. Zimbabweans' verdict on the draft is expected to be known within five days of the voting.

Mugabe has backed the proposed constitution, which enshrines his drive to put land in the hands of black Zimbabweans. Also, the clauses are not retroactive so he could if re-elected remain president for another 10 years.


His political rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has also lent his support to the text.

But that has not prevented the threat of violence from looming over the vote, as party militants keep one eye on the general election slated for July.

Shortly before polls opened on Saturday, gunmen later identified as plainclothes police detectives seized a member of Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) from his home northeast of Harare.

Police spokesperson Charity Charamba told AFP Samson Magumura had been arrested on charges of attempted murder in connection with a recent firebomb attack that injured a Mugabe ally.

While casting his vote on Saturday, Mugabe, whom many blame for past unrest, urged Zimbabweans to ensure the referendum proceeded peacefully.

People want peace

"You can't go about beating people on the streets, that's not allowed, we want peace in the country, peace, peace," he said.

Mugabe, the target of 11 years of Western sanctions over political violence and rights abuses, also used the opportunity to vow the United States and European countries would not be allowed to monitor the upcoming general election.

"The Europeans and the Americans have imposed sanctions on us and we keep them out in the same way they keep us out," he said.

Tsvangirai on Saturday expressed hope that a positive outcome would help catapult the country out of a crisis marked by bloodshed and economic meltdown.

He hoped the vote would move Zimbabwe "from a culture of impunity to a culture of constitutionalism".

Turnout, which was slow at first, picked up slightly as the day progressed, said Rita Makarau, chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, which has registered around six million eligible voters.

Lining up to vote

Minutes before the polls closed late on Saturday people in the Harare township of Mbare were still lining up to vote by candlelight.

Toilet rolls were improvised for candle holders as a gas lamp that was placed in the centre of a tent was insufficient to light the polling station.

Voters were handed a ballot paper in one hand and a candle in another before they disappeared behind a voting booth.

School teacher Petronella Dzikiti said she voted in favour of the new constitution, in part because it would introduce presidential term limits.

"We don't want a situation like we have today, where some of us knew one leader as a child who remains there when we are grown-ups," the 36-year-old said outside a polling station in Chitungwiza, near the capital.

The new constitution would for the first time put a definite, if distant, end date on Mugabe's rule.

Presidents would be allowed to serve two terms of five years each, meaning Mugabe could rule until 2023, when he would be 99 years old.

Strip presidential powers

The text would also strip away presidential immunity after leaving office, bolster the power of the courts, and set up a peace and reconciliation commission tasked with post-conflict justice and healing.

In the run-up to the vote, violence did not approach the levels seen in the disputed 2008 elections.

Then, at least 180 people were killed and 9 000 injured in a crisis that ultimately forced Mugabe and Tsvangirai into a power-sharing government.

There are widespread fears that July's election might bring a return to bloodshed.

On the eve of the referendum, several MDC members, including a parliamentary candidate, were beaten up as they put up posters backing the draft constitution.

The authorities have also been accused of targeting pro-democracy groups by arresting their leaders and seizing equipment.

Tsvangirai called on SADC leaders to meet for an urgent summit, to help ensure the election is fair and free of violence and intimidation.

Observers fear there may not be enough time to apply all the necessary reforms to ensure a healthier political environment before the next elections.

  • Adrian van der Merwe - 2013-03-17 07:30

    Mugabe is what Satan represents to this world.

      leonard.tsolo - 2013-03-17 09:07

      And Bandit as your name is what Satan represents.

      NigelGauteng - 2013-03-17 15:10

      Shame for Leonard. May be he is a Zim national making money in SA, the land of milk and honey. May be he is even family of koekoes Bob.

  • Jaco Whoosh Pearson - 2013-03-17 07:55

    Just another failed African state. And Mugabe is just a puppet, the elite running Zim from behind the scenes are just looking for a new face. And to think, just after it's independance in 1980 the Zim$ was stronger then the UK pound, now its not even worth the paper its printed on.

      jesibelle.krugger - 2013-03-17 08:48

      @Khethu Ndlovu, Stop using 'HISTORY ACCORDING TO YUF LEEK WOODWORK STUDENTS' as your reference - there was a time when the Zimbabwean currency was stronger than the US$ (and as such the British Pound). In fact there was a time when the SA Rand was stronger than the US$ - a time when both these countries were governed by intelligent life...

      Linds Ron-House - 2013-03-17 08:59

      I know for a fact that the Zim$ was equivalent to the British Pound at some stage.

      Henk Van Biljon - 2013-03-17 10:06

      Someone please tell Leonard that all the stripping by white grannies amounted only to a fraction of what is still there. Zimbabweans cannot get to the resources today because of infighting about who gets the loot. Put a white man in charge again and you will see how the economy skyrockets. Try it.

  • Jannie Le Roux - 2013-03-17 08:11

    Proof that one man (dictator) can bring down a whole country to scraps in only 10 years. He's hunger for power has driven the whole country to poverty, food shortages, economical disaster, huge inflation rates, and much less assets. By his means of chasing out the whites, he has indirectly given the country along with minirals to the Chinese in exchange for bridges, roads and infrastructure. He took away jobs from he's own citizens and created jobs for cheep Chinese labour. If Mugabe caught on fire, I won't even urinate on him. What a pig. He destroyed lives and the livelyhoods of millions of his own people. May that be a lesson to power hungry leaders in SA and the voters voting for them alike. The day Mugabe leaves government, is the day I will invest greatly into Zim. Things can only get better from there.

      Jannie Le Roux - 2013-03-17 10:19

      @Leonard.tsolo. I won't know Leonard. I was only 13 in 1994. So tell me Leonard. What makes you better than any of those Europeans that forcefully took the land, as you say? Mugabe took the land forcefully himself. Like always, most of the rest of Africa believe that everything can be solved with murder and violence. Clearly you haven't seen the heartache and disaster of your and my predecessors mistakes. So now you believe in taking revenge on innocent people. Just a thought, but this makes you a cold blooded murderer and no better that any right-wing activist before you. Go back to Zim and face the music. The doing of the arrogance from people like yourself.

  • Jannie Le Roux - 2013-03-17 08:15

    If Mugabe caught on fire, I won't even urinate on him. What a sorry excuse for a human being.

      Henk Van Biljon - 2013-03-17 10:17

      Jannie these people are too simple minded to grasp reality. Unfortunately we have to deal with it but do it at a distance, never become too involved as these hyenas will rip you apart.

  • jungleboy - 2013-03-17 08:29

    Khethu why is there no number plate on your car? Did you steal it to take it back to Zim?

  • Mario Dippenaar - 2013-03-17 08:31

    I don't get all the hate for Mugabe. He single handedly transformed many of his citizens into millionaires by using a revolutionary process known as 'hyperinflation'

  • mohlaloga1 - 2013-03-17 08:38

    lets hope uncle Rob wont munipulate de electoral systerm.

  • Gavin Venter - 2013-03-17 08:41

    last time Mugarbage 'said' he'd affect changes, he didn't Satan's soldier is clever, he gives an inch and makes it look like a mile this creature is an inspiration to a lot of so called African 'leaders'

  • Dumisani Scofield Nwayila - 2013-03-17 08:45

    power to the people, much respect for his laws thou

  • debby.frans.7 - 2013-03-17 08:49

    I am so fed-up never ever in my life I ask the question can't he just vanish or die? The people of Zim will be so happy when Mugabe dies he is so old and the generals(thugs)I hope one day they will answer. They destroy Zim,they looting the country it is a disgrace. People in life that make contributions, uplifting the lives of others die young it is so unfair why not him? because he is the DEVIL

  • Bruce Sahli - 2013-03-17 08:57

    Hope they vote this old dillbrain goat into obscurity!!!!!!

  • Machoene Kaizer - 2013-03-17 09:16

    Let's hope so

  • Mordikaai Speak - 2013-03-17 09:20

    Ignorance is bliss being politically correct does not pay stole from whom?

  • ANASKA - 2013-03-17 09:34

    I!ll believe it when i see it!! - IT WILL BE A MIRACLE and celebrations will be in order!!!

  • Roman O'bannon - 2013-03-17 10:31


  • Johan Jacobs - 2013-03-17 10:33

    Change may be good, or worse.

  • Fezile Russ - 2013-03-17 10:37


  • Kyle Jimmie-deen Motley - 2013-03-17 10:49

    i wish Zimbabwe z the time to change life

  • Tshireletso Molobi - 2013-03-17 10:49

    I will blieve it whn i c it den i will celebrate

  • Terence Wessels - 2013-03-17 11:04

    Zanu-PF time has finally come. Good riddence. The cANCer will not be far behind.

  • Stanley Mabunda - 2013-03-17 11:59

    we must stop fooling ourselves there won't be any change

      Kriss Tapfuma - 2013-03-17 12:14

      change is inevitable,good or bad.

  • Zahir - 2013-03-17 12:03

    They should have allowed voting in SA as there are 5 million zim voters here

  • jenniferntoks.mpanza - 2013-03-17 12:18

    oh hell no if mugabe is still president no change will came,just like SA wont change if ANC and Zuma still in charge,change will cease to exist for this southern african countries

      Simba Mhlanga - 2013-03-20 22:06

      If Bob has been voted to be a president by people automatically he will be removed from power by people

  • NigelGauteng - 2013-03-17 15:08

    dream on! Africa does not know what is democracy, will never know!

  • Ba Tadiwa - 2013-03-17 15:08

    Simphiwe its not the Zimbabweans who are causing the SA govt not to provide sufficiently for south africans. Thats not true at all. There is no country in the world without foreigners. U are just xenophobic

  • NigelGauteng - 2013-03-17 15:12

    I think leonard.tsolo is family of Bob. This streak runs in the Bob family.

  • George Brighton Shikhibana - 2013-03-17 16:10

    The Zimbabweans loves Mugabe because they are always voting him as their preferred presidential candidate. Come elections Mugabe is going to wipe those agents by a huge margin. Zimbabwe is a sovereignity state and it will remain as such.

      Lerato Mako - 2013-03-17 16:39

      fyi,last election mugabe didn't win the votes,

      Luvo Mugabe Jnr Ndlumbini - 2013-03-17 19:32

      True that say it again,

  • Nick Collis - 2013-03-17 16:45

    This whole constitutional exercise has been patchwork and a rushed exercise to get into a rushed election! I get the feeling that the MDC fancy the can win regardless but if electoral reforms including a vote for the diaspora and international observers are not secured it may well be that Mugabe and ZANU PF once again manipulate the process !

  • Luvo Mugabe Jnr Ndlumbini - 2013-03-17 19:37

    Zanu-PF big up! we look forward to a successful fair elections soon after this. Westerns are really obsessed,so how is it possible that they curious & forward about monitoring the elections... crazy fools.

      Chibuli - 2013-03-18 13:18

      What a twat!

      Tsepo Mdlalose - 2013-03-18 13:19

      'they curious' cause they care about others. You know people there are suffering right? Or is it made up?

      Tsepo Mdlalose - 2013-03-18 13:20

      I forgot to add.. > You ignorant fool

  • Nombuso MaGumede Mtema - 2013-03-18 00:53

    I'm wishing da best 4 Zimbabweans......hopefully change is on the way.

      Simba Mhlanga - 2013-03-20 22:00

      If we need changes in zim 'we have to ignore the so-called warveterans

  • Sean Joe - 2013-03-18 13:51

    Being a zimbo and now a foreigner is something i never thought would happen? i used to see loads in zim.. now guess what its me? in the uk, i do not tolerate the incompetant running of a country based on racism,lies and greed..sadly its looks like im a foreigner 4life.

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