News / Africa

Zimbabwe Readies For Vote on New Constitution

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures as he speaks during an event marking his 89th birthday in Bindura, about 90 km north of the capital Harare Mar. 2, 2013. Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures as he speaks during an event marking his 89th birthday in Bindura, about 90 km north of the capital Harare Mar. 2, 2013.
x
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures as he speaks during an event marking his 89th birthday in Bindura, about 90 km north of the capital Harare Mar. 2, 2013.
Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe gestures as he speaks during an event marking his 89th birthday in Bindura, about 90 km north of the capital Harare Mar. 2, 2013.
Anita Powell

Zimbabweans will head to the polls in a week to vote on a new constitution ahead of presidential elections planned for later this year.  Political leaders on both sides of the spectrum are urging citizens to approve the draft, but the former opposition says the big fight is ahead, when the nation chooses a president later this year.

Zimbabwe's finance minister, Tendai Biti, said the presidential vote would be a "make or break" event for the southern African nation.  He cited examples of growing violence ahead of that contest.

But first, he said, the nation's voters have to approve this constitution.  Both sides of the political spectrum -- Biti's former opposition party and the ruling ZANU-PF -- are hoping the constitution will pass.

Biti spoke from the capital of South Africa, Pretoria.  His Movement for Democratic Change visited the neighboring country to urge some 1.5 million Zimbabweans living here to return home to vote.  

"I think it's a very proud moment that Zimbabweans actually have a constitution by themselves and for themselves.  And a constitution which to some of us is a major paradigm from the current trajectory of the country.  It's a major U-turn to the current trajectory of chaos, fascism and destruction.  It's a constitution that can hold its own against the best in the world," he said.

Constitutional reform was one of the conditions of Zimbabwe's coalition government.  The coalition was formed after disputed and violent elections in 2008, with long-term President Robert Mugabe still at the helm after a contentious and violence-marred vote.

The writing of the constitution has not been smooth.  The charter took years longer to frame than expected, and both sides have described the result as an imperfect compromise.  Critics of Mugabe say the charter still gives him too much power.  One major change is that presidents will be limited to two, five-year terms.  But that provision is not retroactive, so Mugabe, who has ruled since 1980, could continue to serve until the age of 99.

But Biti says he wants voters to oust Mugabe when presidential elections are held.  If not, he warned, the nation may suffer dire consequences.

"This election offers a decisive chance after 2008 to set it right.  If we don't set it right, when we had the crisis in 2008, a lot of people actually gave us a second chance.  But my suspicion is that if we get it wrong this time around, I think there will be a massive dislocation, a massive movement of people from Zimbabwe.  And also, the international community, which is already tired of Zimbabwe, I think they'll just pack their bags," he said.

The Southern African Development Community said Saturday that it urges Zimbabweans to vote peacefully.  South African President Jacob Zuma said the process has been going as expected, but no presidential vote date has been set.

"...all parties in the global political agreement have agreed, firstly they have concluded an important process of constitution making and they have agreed it must now go to the referendum, and the date has been set, so that is no longer the issue.  The date has not been necessarily identified because after the referendum, that will be the process of working out the roadmap which must be based on the law and the constitution of Zimbabwe.  And the work that will go into that one will then determine when is the date.  So at the moment, everybody agrees to go for the referendum, thereafter elections," he said.

The constitutional referendum is scheduled for Saturday.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: 3rd Time Around
March 09, 2013 11:57 PM
Sadly there can be no third time around, that is the reality of the situation. Easy for the International Community to leave, what about ordinary people who have lived there all their lives. Anyone listening out there and "awake"

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid