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Zimbabwe Opposition Unhappy about Mugabe Rejection of a New Constitution

Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe says there is no need for a new constitution ahead of next year’s presidential election. This follows demands by opposition parties for a new constitution. They contend that the existing constitution has been manipulated by Mugabe’s government to win previous elections. Opposition parties say government’s refusal to change the constitution will permit the ruling ZANU-PF party to perpetuate its numerical strength in parliament as well as allow President Mugabe to choose a successor. The opposition says this would derail the SADC (Southern African Development Community) organized peace talks, which seek to ease political tensions in the country.

In Harare, spokesman Nelson Chamisa of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party tells VOA English to Africa reporter Peter Clottey that partisans across the political divide are endorsing the demand for a new constitution.

“The country needs a new constitution, in fact there is a national chorus and national demand for a new constitution. People are for a new constitution including those in the ZANU-PF. But Mugabe understandably, would not want a new constitution because the current constitution serves his purpose, that is, to perpetuate dictatorship, and to perpetuate tyranny,” he said.

Chamisa says as long as the government fails to give the people a new constitution, the problems the country is facing will not be resolved.

“We are not going to realize the resolution of the crisis until we have a new constitution because the new constitution is basically is going to be the covenant between the governing people and the governed people. As far as we are concerned, we have a feeling that to the extent that we don’t have a new constitution in place, we will continue the breakdown of the rule of law, impunity which is being catalyzed and fertilized by the regime itself,” Chamisa pointed out.

He said the existing constitution is not representative of the aspirations of the people.

“The current constitution does not make it possible for the will of the people to prevail. It doesn’t make it possible for the legitimate concerns and voices of Zimbabweans to be heard and to be articulated. And for that reason, we are then going to have a predetermined outcome from this kind of constitutional dispensation,” he said.

Chamisa said the people want a constitution that would give them hope.

“What Zimbabweans want is a law for themselves, by themselves and written to make sure that we face our hopes and aspirations. The current constitution does not in anyway speak to the values that Zimbabweans have. It does not in anyway articulate the kinds of vision Zimbabweans would want to realize and that is quite tragic,” he noted.

The MDC spokesman says the people called for a referendum for the purpose of having a new constitution, which Chamisa contends the government has so far failed to give to the people.

“This is why there was a referendum in 2000. The referendum was particularly, after the pressure has been given on the government and on this regime to make sure that we put in place our own indigenous constitution as Zimbabweans, so that we would have our own legitimate and sovereign document. We don’t have that at the moment,” he said.

Chamisa said he is baffled that President Mugabe is not listening to the demands of the people.

“It’s shocking to hear Robert Mugabe saying that there is no need for a new constitution. But clearly, we understand that what Mugabe would want is a constitution which allows him to continue to abuse power and authority, and this is why we have this crisis in this country. The crisis in this country is a crisis of governance, is a crisis of the law of the land which is not born out of the peoples struggle,” Chamisa said.

He called the existing constitution a temporary document.

“In fact what we just had in 1980 was a power transfer document, which was a temporary document, which did not speak to the values, the tenets Zimbabweans would want to see… and that is what we are fighting for in the MDC,” he said.