(Last Updated on January 27, 2013 by Editor)
ZIMBABWE – Zimbabwe is set to hold its constitutional referendum at the end of March this year as the country draws closer to its harmonised elections.
Constitution Select Committee (Copac) co-chair Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana yesterday said the remaining processes under the constitution-making programme would only be held between next month and mid-March. Therefore, the timeframe, he said, meant that the referendum will be held in two months’ time.
An already agreed draft will be tabled before Parliament on February 8 after which public awareness campaigns will be rolled out.
“We are likely to go for the referendum at the end of March so that the people of Zimbabwe will decide on the new governing charter,” he said.
“People need to know that the draft will be presented to Parliament for adoption next week. “We also need to embark on public awareness campaigns. So a March date is realistic. The President will, however, proclaim the exact date in due course.”
Zimbabwe is scheduled to hold national polls this year in keeping with the standing constitution. Earlier this month, the inclusive Government principals cleared the way for a referendum and subsequent elections after ironing out sticking points around the writing of the new Supreme Law.
The contentious areas that stalled progressed include a clause on presidential running mates, devolution, dual citizenship, Executive powers and the appointment of the Attorney-General. The full Copac is scheduled to adopt the document this Tuesday.
Mangwana said the only change to the Draft that will be deferred for 10 years is the appointment of presidential running mates.
He said the staffing of the proposed constitutional court will also be stood over for seven years while the rest of the clauses will become effective after the new constitution has been gazetted or after the swearing in of a presidential election winner.
He added that the proposed Peace and Reconciliation Commission will be operational for only 10 years. Provisions regarding citizenship, the National Prosecuting Authority, Bill of Rights, the Legislature, Executive powers and election guidelines will become effective after the publication of the said gazette.
The Attorney-General’s Office and the Constitutional Court, among other issues, will be handled by the eventual winner of the presidential election race.
“All the clauses that we have agreed on will become effective soon after gazetting the new document save for the running mate clause which is going to be adopted after 10 years and the staffing of the Constitutional Court after seven years,” said Mangwana.
“We believe we do not have perpetual conflict in this country. I am sure after 10 years all the issues of conflict will have been addressed.
“It will be then up to the Government of the day to enact it (the Peace and Reconciliation Commission) through Parliament if they think more still needs to done.”
He added: “We have a national duty to produce a charter for Zimbabweans. So, as we speak, the Draft is being translated into our country’s vernacular languages.
“Everyone will get a chance to look at the Draft and decide during the referendum.” Speaking to journalists in Harare yesterday, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Advocate Eric Matinenga accused sections of the media of misinterpreting provisions of the Draft.
“We are disturbed by some reports we get from some sections of the media. The only clause which was deferred for 10 years is the appointment of running mates by presidential candidates,” he said.
“All the other things will be effected soon after the publication of the new constitution in the gazette and soon after the person who is going to win the next presidential election assumes office.” Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Acting chairperson Mrs Joyce Kazembe said her commission would begin work as soon as it gets the necessary funds.
She said Treasury was responsible for financing voter registration, the referendum and the general poll. The constitution making process began in 2009 soon after the formation of the inclusive Government.
Parliament constituted the 25 member Copac to spearhead the project that saw the First All Stakeholders’ Conference being held in July of the same year.
An outreach to collect public opinion on the proposed document was carried out followed by the Second All Stakeholders’ Conference.
A Cabinet committee tasked to deal with emergent disagreements also reached a deadlock that was only resolved by the inclusive Government principals on January 17 this year.