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.
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

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs