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 Miami Cubans Divided on New US Policy

While older, more conservative Cuban Americans have promoted anti-Castro political movement for years, younger generations say economically, it is time for change More

2014 Sees Dramatic Uptick in Boko Haram Abductions

Militants suspected in latest mass kidnapping of over 100 people in Gumsuri, Nigeria on Sunday More

Video Cuba Deal Is Major Victory for Pope

Role of Francis hailed throughout US, Latin America - though some Cuban-American Catholics have mixed feelings 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.
Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacksi
X
December 19, 2014 12:45 AM
The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video Sudan School Becomes Target of Aerial Attacks

The school dropout rate is at an all-time high in Sudan's South Kordofan state because many schools have been destroyed during the three-year civil war between the government and SPLA-N rebel forces. Adam Bailes visited Sudan's Nuba Mountains' region and reports many children are simply too scared to go to school
Video

Video VOA Reporter Tours Devastated Peshawar School

Islamist militants wearing military uniforms and strapped with explosives attacked a military run school Tuesday in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar. At least 141 people were killed in the horrific attack, most of them young students. VOA reporter Ayaz Gul visited the devastated school and attended the funeral of the principal who courageously tried to save her students from the deadly attack.
Video

Video Nigerians Fleeing Boko Haram Languish in Camp Near Capital

In its five-year effort to impose Islamic law in northeastern Nigeria, the Boko Haram extremist group has killed thousands of people and forced hundreds of thousands to flee. Some of those who ran for their lives now live in squalor on the edges of the capital, Abuja. Chris Stein reports for VOA.
Video

Video Putin Says Russian Economy Will Emerge Stronger

Russian President Vladimir Putin has said his country's sinking economy will not only recover but also become stronger, despite falling oil prices and Western sanctions over Ukraine. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Detained Turkish Journalists Follow Teachings of US-Based Preacher

The Turkish government’s jailing of critical journalists has sparked international condemnation and is being seen as an effort to undermine the followers of an ailing Turkish preacher based in the United States. VOA religion reporter Jerome Socolovsky has more.
Video

Video ‘Anti-Islamization’ Marches Increase Tensions In Germany

Anti-immigrant rallies in Germany have been building in recent weeks, peaking Monday night in the city of Dresden where tens of thousands of people turned out to demonstrate against what they call the ‘Islamization’ of the West. Germany has offered asylum to more Syrian refugees than any other country, and this appears to have set off the protests. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Aceh Rebuilt Decade After Tsunami, But Scars Remain

On December 26, 2004 there was an earthquake in the Indian Ocean so powerful it caused the Earth’s axis to wobble a few centimeters. Onshore on the island of Sumatra, the resulting tsunami was devastating. A decade later, VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Banda Aceh, Indonesia, where although there is little remaining evidence of the physical devastation, the psychological scars among survivors remain.
Video

Video Refugees Living in Kenya Long for Peace in the Home Countries

Kenya is host to numerous refugees seeking safe haven from conflict. Immigrants from Somalia face challenges in their new lives in Kenya. Ahead of International Migrants Day (December 18) Lenny Ruvaga has more for VOA News from the Kenyan capital.

All About America

AppleAndroid