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

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches 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.
Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debatei
X
Shelley Schlender
July 24, 2014 6:43 PM
In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Treatment for Childhood Epilepsy Heats up Medical Marijuana Debate

In the United States, marijuana is classed as an illegal drug by the federal government. But nearly half the states have legalized it, to some degree. Proponents say some strains of marijuana might have exceptional health benefits, for treating pain or inflammation in chronic conditions such as cancer, multiple sclerosis and epilepsy. Shelley Schlender reports on a strain of medical marijuana developed in Colorado that is reputed to reduce seizures in childhood epilepsy
Video

Video Airbus Adds Metal 3D Printed Parts to New Jets

By the end of this year, European aircraft manufacturing consortium Airbus plans to deliver the first of its new, extra-wide-body passenger jets, the A350-XWB. Among other technological innovations, the new plane will also incorporate metal parts made in a 3-D printer. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Death Toll From Israel-Gaza Conflict Surpasses 700

Gaza officials say a shelling hit a compound housing a United Nations-run school in the Gaza Strip, killing more than a dozen people, during an Israeli offensive in the area. Heavy fighting between the Israeli military and Hamas militants continued on Thursday, pushing up the death toll. So far, more than 730 Palestinians and 35 Israelis have been killed in the conflict. VOA's Scott Bobb has the latest from Jerusalem.
Video

Video AIDS Conference Welcomes Exciting Developments in HIV Treatment, Prevention

Significant strides have been made in recent years toward the treatment and prevention of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. This year, at the International AIDS Conference, the AIDS community welcomed progress on a new pill that may prevent transmission of the deadly virus. VOA’s Anita Powell reports from Melbourne, Australia.
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Researchers Target Low-Cost Avatar Technology

Scientists at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies say 3-dimensional representations could revolutionize social media. Elizabeth Lee has more from Los Angeles.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid