News / Africa

Zimbabweans Vote on Proposed New Constitution

Zimbabweans vote Saturday on a new constitution after decades of using a charter given to them by former colonial power Britain. Both sides of the political spectrum say they want the proposed constitution to pass, and have been actively campaigning for it. But some voters and Zimbabwean civic groups says the charter does not represent the wishes of ordinary people.

 

The signs are hard to miss in Harare, Zimbabwe’s capital.

 

VOTE YES, blare billboards that show the proposed constitution.
 

At schools in the capital, uniformed election workers set up the polling places.

The constitution’s supporters are casting the document as a reward for years of hard work. This is Zimbabwe’s second constitutional vote - a 2000 referendum narrowly failed - and this charter was years in the making. The new constitution was a condition of a fractious government coalition formed after violent and disputed 2008 elections.

 

Like that uneasy joining of former rivals, this document is a compromise. Still, the long-powerful ZANU-PF party, led by President Robert Mugabe, and the Movement for Democratic Change, led by Mugabe rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, both say they support the draft.

 

But critics say that the constitution is still not democratic enough. A coalition of pro-democracy groups lobbied unsuccessfully to block the vote.

 

Politician Job Sikhala has few nice words to say about the joint MDC and ZANU-PF writing effort. "This is a gigantic fraud these people have come out with. The truth is: we have to back to our roots where we said we want a democratic constitution, where everybody in Zimbabwe will be able to participate," Sikhala said.

 

Lovemore Madhuku heads the National Constitutional Assembly, the coalition of pro-democracy groups opposed to the draft.

 

"From day one we are fighting for a democratic constitution. If you read the campaign material for the yes (vote), they list issues which were never the key issues for the crusade for a new constitution. What inspired us to go for a new constitution was to create an accountable governance framework which starts from the powers which you allocate to the head of state and government," Madhuku said.

Madhuku has said the constitution still gives too much power to President Mugabe. He also noted that Zimbabweans were given just four weeks to study the complex and lengthy document.

 

Other notable changes in the new document are more rights for women and a scaling back of the death penalty. It also brings in presidential term limits of two, five year terms. That provision is not retroactive, so Mugabe, who is 89, could continue to serve for another decade.
 

Mugabe says he sees the constitution as a prelude to his party winning elections scheduled for later this year. He intends to run for president again.

 

"There is nothing bad about about this constitution, just small things which can be amended later," he says. The president says he wants a yes vote so Zimbabwe can get on with elections -- elections which he says his ZANU-PF party will win.

 

That too presents concerns. Mugabe’s government has blocked international observers from watching this poll. Critics of his government say there have already been episodes of pre-election violence, and say they fear more will come when Mugabe’s campaign heats up.

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Enock Mpofu
March 15, 2013 8:50 PM
David Cameron has been remarkably quiet on the Zimbabwean issue and what has been happening. I wonder why.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs