Govt can’t impose constitution: Biti

MDC-T secretary general Tendai Biti told supporters in the farming town of Karoi, 204km north-west of Harare that Zimbabweans should write a new constitution for themselves and should not be forced to accept a controversial draft constitution known as the Kariba Draft that was written by the former opposition party and its two coalition partners in 2007.

”You must fully participate in a new constitution that will be for the people and by the people,” said Biti, who is also finance minister in the unity government.

“The new constitution needs your full participation as it will start soon throughout the country. Kariba Draft was done without your participation but for democracy to work your views must be accepted in the new constitution,” he added.

The issue of how a new constitution should be drafted is fast emerging as the biggest threat to Zimbabwe’s unity government that is in its seventh month in office.

President Robert Mugabe’s ZANU PF party has said any new constitution should be based on the Kariba Draft that was secretly authored by the country’s three main political parties without citizens’ participation.

However, civic organisations and the MDC are opposed to the Kariba Draft, saying the document leaves largely untouched the wide-sweeping powers that Mugabe continues to enjoy even after formation of a power-sharing government with Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara.

Mugabe two weeks ago told his party’s youth wing that ZANU PF parliamentarians would be instructed to vote against any draft constitution that is not based on the Kariba document. 

The two MDC formations cannot enact a new constitution without backing from ZANU PF and in any case, any proposed constitution would require Mugabe’s signature to become effective law.   

Failure to enact a new and democratic constitution would be disastrous for the coalition government whose most important task besides reviving the economy is to write a new constitution to replace the existing one that was drafted by Zimbabwe’s former colonial power, Britain.

Article 6 of the global political agreement (GPA) that was signed by the country’s three main political parties and that gave birth to the coalition government provides for the drafting of a new constitution.

The draft constitution would be put before the electorate in a referendum expected in July next year and if approved by Zimbabweans will then be brought before Parliament for enactment.

Once a new constitution is in place, the power-sharing government is expected to call fresh parliamentary, presidential and local government elections. – ZimOnline