Zimbabwe constitution draft 'flawed'

2012-07-23 08:59

Harare - A draft constitution just finalised by Zimbabwe lawmakers as part of key reforms ahead of elections is a flawed compromise that will have little effect, analysts warn.

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, in power for 32 years, was forced into the power-sharing deal with arch rival Morgan Tsvangirai to avoid a descent into bloody conflict.

The draft, finalised on Friday, curtails presidential powers and limits terms to 10 years.

Under the draft plans there is however no age limit for the president, meaning Mugabe could seek another mandate under its terms.

Mugabe, 88, is now trying to get out of the power-sharing deal and has in recent months been pushing 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 must take place under a new constitution.

Lovemore Madhuku, a legal expert at the University of Zimbabwe, sees the draft as an unsatisfactory compromise between negotiators from the parties in the power-sharing government.

"It retains an executive president. That's not what the people said during the outreach programme. In fact, the people don't even know the meaning of some of the things that are in the constitution," he told AFP.

"From us it's a clear 'No' vote."

Future generations

Jonathan Moyo, a member of parliament from Mugabe's Zanu-PF, said the draft lacked legitimacy because the drafting process by the political parties excluded other players.

The government-owned Sunday Mail newspaper said that even if the draft sails through the referendum, whenever that will be, the constitution "will most definitely be challenged and thrown away by future generations".

The proposed document also tackles social issues, allowing same-sex marriage while retaining capital punishment, though not for women or anyone over 70 years old.

It provides for citizenship by birth, descent or registration but does not allow dual citizenship.

The draft 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.

Nevanji Madanhire, editor of the privately owned Standard newspaper, said: "The new constitution... should be a blueprint for the correction of all that has gone wrong with our country.

"But the amount of compromise the latest draft shows means the country is ready to continue with the same."

Eric Matinenga, a minister from the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) responsible for constitutional affairs, told reporters on Friday: "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'."

Reform process

The draft constitution provides for a vice president to take over if the president dies, resigns or becomes incapacitated.

This, according to some analysts, deals with the succession battles in Zanu-PF and forces Mugabe to choose a successor.

The new rules would also require the head of state to consult parliament and the cabinet on key appointments, alongside fixing term limits for both the presidency and the executive, said Matinenga.

It protects a serving president from prosecution, but the immunity falls away when the head of state leaves office, another concern for Mugabe.

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.

The constitution-making was characterised by bickering including the disruption of the first stakeholders conference by militant supporters of Mugabe's party and the death of a member of Tsvangirai's party during the outreach to gather people's input into the charter.

European Union ministers, hoping to encourage the reform process, are set to resume aid and suspend most of the EU's sanctions against Zimbabwe once the referendum on the new constitution has been organised, diplomatic sources said.

They would however maintain sanctions against a "small core" of people including Mugabe. The ministers meet on Monday.

  • len.murozvi - 2012-07-23 09:20

    what referendum, Tsvangiarai and his bunch are such novices in politics.Why are they agreeing to a referendum. Mugabe uses such referendums to test public opinion before the real elections. If he loses referendums then his violent machinery steps up a gear.

  • Walter - 2012-07-23 10:31

    Not so easy for the dictator any more. 10 years for any president is far too long. Why don't they learn something from the SA constitution?

      ephraim.mutero - 2012-07-23 11:47

      Its maximum of two five year terms thus ten years.Iam sure most countries in the world have such limits.Am not sure wht to learn from SA constitution that you are trying to say. Each country has its own constitution, this draft will be put to a referendum and if people say yes then that is fine.We are happy as Zimbabweans that things will finally get better and we retutrn to our country to help it grow, we are able to contribute. As for age limits , remember the Constitution is not mearnt to deal with individuals, its not about Mugabe but the future generations.As Minister Matinenga said, Zimbabweans need to embrace constitutionalism.The fact that Jonatham Moyo, Madhuku and company have cricised the draft does not make it a bad draft. Understand where these people are coming from, as Zimbabweans, we know them, their colours and what they stand for. As for me its thumps up to the draft and hopefully it will be a big yes during the referendum.

  • bzondikoata - 2012-07-23 10:56

    Robert Mugabe is after all a human being him making people surfer will catch up with him... he is not going to live for ever he will die too like everyone. He needs to be reminded that, and Morgan Shangari must not give up instead he must fight for what will make him good, if voicing for thousands will make him so then be it with or with out anyones support coz he need his own support first. nothing is permanet its a matter of time before every thing fall into place in Zimbabwe.

      millionwatts1 - 2012-07-23 11:09

      So is Tsvangirai, he is also just human. But I get what you are TRYING to say.

      kurt.aitchison - 2012-07-23 11:10

      WTF!! Go back to school please

  • vus.dube - 2012-07-23 12:25

    This is nonsense. We need a water tight...

  • Alfjoe - 2012-07-23 13:02

    Jonathan(mafikizolo) and madhuku(big heard), we knw you, u benefit most when zimbabweans are suffering, am surprised coz all wat they are saying is in ths referundum is exactly wat is there in many countries, same sex mariages, its here in sa, maximum 2 terms for president, its there everywhere, compensation for whte farmers, thats nt a bad idea, no prosecution for a sitting president, wats wrong with that? Vice president taking over wen the president dies, its better than the army. Beware of these so called professors, they wanted to be part of the process.

  • ncubecrispo - 2012-07-23 18:25

    I understand this article has truth in it,a good one indeed BUT i have been going through the document and am afraid i have not yet met the provision for same sex marriage, SECTION 4.35 (1) states that "Every person who has attained the age of eighteen years has the right to marry a person of the opposite sex who is of marriageable age, and no such person may be prevented from entering into such a marriage" FROM THIS,I FIND IT DIFFICULT TO FATHOM WHERE YOU GOT THAT INFORMATION! Editor could you please explain how that misinformation got into your article? It is part of the journalism ethics "verification of facts" to verify your facts before publication!!!! Do that in future!!

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