16 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Constitutional Referendum Set for March?

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

A date for a referendum might be announced in Harare on Thursday, when the three principals to the GPA meet to receive a draft report of the new constitution.

This reportedly follows a 'breakthrough' in talks to finalize the drafting of the new charter by the cabinet committee that met in Harare on Wednesday.

SW Radio Africa was told the country is set to have a referendum at the end of March with elections most likely to be staged in July this year

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told us on Wednesday that they made 'very good' progress in their final day of talks in the capital.

The Minister said the seven member cabinet committee will meet in Harare on Wednesday evening to go through a draft report that would be presented to the GPA principals on Thursday.

'We finished our meeting at 3pm and met our secretariat to draft a report that we will look at tonight (Wednesday evening) so that it is in a state to be presented to the principals.'

Asked if they had finally dealt with all the contentious issues after three years of drafting the constitution, Matinenga retorted: 'If I say it was a good meeting and we made good progress that should mean a lot.'

Although he refused to say they had completed the draft, Matinenga may have let the cat out of the bag when he revealed drafters are to be called back to work on the new additions.

'The drafters are going to come back to redo the document and factor in all the agreed issues and put it in a legal language,' he said. The minister speculated the referendum might be held at the end of March, saying a lot of work still remained.

Paul Mangwana, the ZANU PF co-chairman, said there was 'a great deal' of progress from the talks, confirming that the committee will be meeting again to 'go through' the draft report before its presentation to the principals.

'We are still talking and yes there was good progress but if you need more information on that contact the coordinator (Matinenga),' Mangwana said.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T co-chairman, said it was true they had agreed on all issues from their Wednesday meeting. He said their last round of negotiations ended with important progress on all issues, including the contentious one on running mates.

'The most prominent achievements were made on issues such as devolution, national prosecuting authority, constitutional court, peace and reconciliation commission and land commission,' explained Mwonzora.

The same committee met on Tuesday but ended their negotiations without a deal. The talks proved elusive after ZANU PF brought back issues already agreed to by the co-chairmen.

Meanwhile Welshman Ncube's MDC has protested the fact that he was not included in the Monday meeting of the principals when they met to discuss the constitution. The MDC said this was 'in violation of the SADC meeting (in Mozambique) which stated that Ncube was a principal.

It was Morgan Tsvangirai, Robert Mugabe and Arthur Mutambara who met as principals on Monday.

Ncube and Mutambara remain locked in a legal battle for control of the MDC and SADC made the unwieldy decision last year that Ncube would deal with the mediation team and Mutambara would continue to attend meetings of GPA leaders. This has created endless debate about who attends which meetings.

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