ZANU-PF draft Zimbabwe constitution angers MDC

HARARE (Reuters) – ZANU-PF amendments to Zimbabwe's draft constitution, restoring sweeping powers to the president and setting up a mandatory youth service, have been rejected by its MDC coalition partners and are likely to delay adoption of the landmark new document.\r\n

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Earlier this month, regional leaders said work on the new constitution was near completion, boding well for parliamentary elections required by next year under a power sharing deal between ZANU-PF, the MDC and a smaller MDC splinter group.

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Approval of the constitution requires a two-thirds majority in parliament and none of the parties have enough seats to railroad the document through on their own.

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Zimbabweans had hoped elections held under a new constitution agreed by all parties would avoid the sort of violence that marred previous polls and led to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing to neighbouring South Africa.

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A draft produced by an inter-party parliamentary committee and agreed by ZANU-PF and MDC negotiators last month curbed presidential powers by requiring lawmakers’ approval for the dissolution of parliament, and for the declaration of war and public emergencies.

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It left the president with the authority to make senior appointments.

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In the amended draft seen by Reuters on Friday, ZANU-PF, President Robert Mugabe’s party, restores to the president the power to declare war and dissolve parliament, concentrates power in the central government and sets up a mandatory youth service.

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Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which formed the coalition government with the rival ZANU-PF in 2009, immediately rejected the changes. The draft was given to the MDC and an MDC splinter group this week.

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MDC leaders say the mandatory youth service for all school leavers that ZANU-PF proposes is worrying because a similar scheme was in the past used to produce pro-Mugabe “militias” used to intimidate and beat up the opposition.

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Mugabe, 88, has led Zimbabwe since independence in 1980 and is under international sanctions for suspected human rights abuses.

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“Even at our most foolish, there is no way we could ever accept those amendments. Anyone who does so would be committing political suicide,” Welshman Ncube, leader of the MDC.

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Robert Mugabe’s supporters are already saying the constitution making process say Zimbabwe can hold elections using the Lancaster House Constitution because of the current stalemate. 

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They noted that the birth of the Global Political Agreement was not about coming up with a new supreme law of the land.

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Professor Jonathan Moyo said the essence of the GPA was never about writing a new constitution, but to create a conducive environment for the conduct of free and fair elections.

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He noted that since the environment is now proper for the conduct of peaceful elections, the onus is on President Robert Mugabe to call for elections under the Lancaster House Constitution.

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“The essence of the GPA was never about writing a new constitution so if there is a stalemate, we will go for elections with the old one. The conditions are now there and as such there should be a meeting of minds and people should go beyond personal interests and look at the bigger picture,” said Professor Moyo.

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Constitutional law expert, Professor Lovemore Madhuku said it was very clear from the beginning that no constitution was ever going to be produced by the political parties as they have to agree on all the issues.

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He said the current scenario demands that political leaders agree on time lines for elections.

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“It was clear from the beginning that the three political parties would not produce a new constitution. Elections should be held using the old one. The parties should just agree so that we go for elections,” Professor Madhuku said.

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Zanu PF rejected dual citizenship saying only descendants of parents or grandparents of people who are Zimbabweans by birth can be considered as citizens of this country.

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The issue of a running mate was also removed. The other two MDC formations have rejected the proposed amendments resulting in a stalemate.

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