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

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US 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.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More