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 For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space 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.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid