Zim parliament OKs draft constitution

2013-02-07 20:30

Harare - Zimbabwe's upper house of parliament approved a draft constitution on Thursday, clearing the way for a national referendum as early as April.

The 160-page draft - approved by the lower house on Wednesday night -took three years to write, with constant bickering between Zimbabwe's three main parties, including President Robert Mugabe's Zanu PF and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

"I am sure soon the president will announce the dates" for the referendum, Douglas Mwonzora, the chair of the parliamentary committee that drafted the constitution, told dpa.

All major parties have formally given their backing to the new constitution, which retains tough laws against homosexuality and the death penalty for certain murder cases.

Some presidential powers would be limited under the draft, including the right to veto laws and appoint governors, but the proposed two-term limit on holding the top office would not be applied retroactively.

Mugabe, aged 88 and at the helm of the southern African nation since independence in 1980, has indicated he will run again this year, in general elections slated to follow the referendum on the constitution.

Donors and southern African nations have insisted that a new constitution be enacted before fresh elections are held, following a volatile vote in 2008 during which some 200 people - mostly members of MDC factions - were killed.