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Zimbabwe Changes Media, Security Laws

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe has approved two changes in both the media and security laws of the country ahead of this year’s general elections. The changes came after both the ZANU-PF government and the opposition agreed on the changes at the deadlocked but ongoing Southern African Development Community (SADC)-backed talks. The talks are aimed at resolving Zimbabwe’s economic and political crisis. Some political analysts believe the changes, described by many as draconian, are a little too late to make any significant impact in the March 2008 elections.

Tendai Biti is the General Secretary of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC). He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Harare that the MDC forced President Mugabe to make the changes.

“Mugabe is not changing the law, the laws are being changed as a result of negotiations that have been taking place between the MDC and the ZANU-PF in the first eight months. So it’s not that Mugabe is doing that voluntarily, it is as a result of the SADC-sponsored dialogue that has been taking place,” Biti pointed out.

He stressed the changes would not have any significant impact in the general elections.

“The changes would not have an impact on the elections. It is too early to judge the efficacy of these reforms because the election is too, too close by. So they would not have any impact on the elections,” he maintained.

Biti said it is the opinion of the opposition MDC that the country is not ready for this year’s elections.

“ That is correct. That is why the talks are deadlocked. The talks are deadlocked because the opposition is saying the country is not ready for an election. If you have an election now it is as good as it is stolen, and that is the point we are making,” Biti noted.

He denied the opposition MDC has refused to compromise with the ruling ZANU-PF government to help revitalized the stalled talks.

“The MDC has been compromising. When you are negotiating, you don’t get everything you want. So we’ve been compromising all the way. That is why we’ve gotten here. But there is a certain level we can’t go under. The single, one thing we can’t go under is to be denied a constitution, a new constitution. There is no crisis in the world, which has not been negotiated and resolved through a constitutional dialogue and a constitutional settlement… and remember this is a constitution that has been signed. What’s wrong in making it into a law? And if you are worried about the timing and if you are worried that you don’t have time to consult, then enact it now and deal with the issues of consultations after the election. That is the simple point we have been making to President Mugabe,” he said.

Biti said it would be unfortunate for anyone to suggest to the MDC to compromise on its demand for a new constitution.

“It is a stupid opinion and it is a foolish opinion and we are not going to do that. The constitution is fundamental to the crisis in Zimbabwe. At the epicenter of the crisis we’ve had in Zimbabwe is the issue that we don’t have the constitution. Any crisis that you have had whether in South Africa, Namibia, whether it is Zimbabwe, whether it is Rhodesia you start with the constitution, you resolve constitutional issues. So to say forgo the issues of the constitution is to say forgo the issue of the Zimbabwe crisis. That is why I’m saying any suggestion that for us to abandon our demand on the constitution is foolish,” Biti said.