Africa

Zim awaits constitution breakthrough

Ray Ndlovu

Elections and referendum are on hold as officials squabble, but issues will hopefully be resolved soon, writes Ray Ndlovu.

Zimbabweans wait for news on whether issues have been ironed out and they can finally have a referendum on the constitution. (AFP)

President Robert Mugabe's threats to make a unilateral call for elections in March look increasingly unlikely because a new constitution, a key requisite for holding the elections, remains in the lurch because of several outstanding issues and a pending referendum.

An official in Mugabe's Zanu-PF party and a co-chairperson on the constitutional parliamentary commitee, Paul Mangwana, this week revealed that the number of outstanding disputes on the constitution between Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formations had been reduced from 30 to six.

He said expectations are that, once there is consensus on these issues, the country will head to a referendum vote on the constitution in March.

"There are only a few sticking issues now. We started with 30 but just a handful remain. We are optimistic that these will be ironed out in the coming few weeks ... and that the referendum will be coming any time before March," Mangwana said.

The delays on the referendum have thrown Mugabe's plan for early elections into jeopardy. Rumours in political circles indicate that elections may only be held in June.

Mugabe is in the Far East on holiday. He is expected back in office at the end of the month, and the Zanu-PF Politburo will only meet then to deliberate on the constitution-making process and elections.

Some of the issues include devolution, the creation of a national prosecuting authority, clipping the executive's authority, the formation of a national peace and reconciliation commission and adopting running mates in the next election.

Decade-long fight
Under the running mates clause, Mugabe and Morgan Tsvangirai would have to pick individuals who would stand alongside them in the next elections and who would automatically become deputy president. Zanu-PF is opposed to the proposal because it believes it will open an avenue for the succession battle to spill on to the election stage. Deputy President Joice Mujuru and Defence Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa have been locked in a decade-long fight to succeed Mugabe.

Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo maintained a tough stance this week on devolution, despite it being widely adopted by several provinces in the country during the constitutional outreach exercise.

"It's unimaginable to have devolution. Zimbabwe is too small a country to be divided," said Gumbo.

Eldred Masunungure, a political analyst said "fatigue" had set in among voters as a result of the protracted fight over the constitution between Zanu-PF and the MDC.

"All that the people want is for the constitution-making process to be finished ... and are now looking forward to seeing the principals coming up with a compromise this year. If that happens, all other things will fall in place – the referendum and the elections," he said.

The constitution-making process was initially slated to take 18 months but has taken more than three years because of bickering among the political parties.

Douglas Mwonzora, an MDC official and a representative of the party in the constitutional parliamentary commitee expressed optimism that a breakthrough would be reached on Thursday, when the commitee was set to make its presentation to the cabinet committee.


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