7 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Parly Clears Pathway to Referendum

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

THE draft Constitution is expected to be ready for referendum today after the House of Assembly yesterday adopted a motion on the report on the Constitution-making process and noted the new charter, with the Senate expected to do the same today.

President Mugabe will then be expected to announce dates for the referendum soon.

In the meantime, Copac would have to conduct awareness campaigns on the draft for people to vote from an informed position during the referendum.

Legislators in the House of Assembly broke into song and dance after the Speaker Mr Lovemore Moyo announced the adoption of the motion.

Backbenchers from all parties in the House showed a sense of unity during debate by congratulating Zimbabweans and the Copac leadership for producing the draft despite numerous problems that were encountered during the initial phase of the process.

Copac co-chairperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T), who moved the motion on behalf of his counterparts on Tuesday, thanked parliamentarians for supporting the draft.

"On behalf of Copac, I want to thank all our political parties for having deposed confidence in us, all our members do not take that for granted," he said.

"We went through various problems, but they did not lose heart because they were doing it for their country."

Mr Mwonzora said Copac would now embark on a massive publicity campaign before the referendum is held.

"After this (adoption) we intend to embark on a massive civic education exercise so that the people of Zimbabwe appreciate what this document says," he said.

"They are going to mark us on this document and they need to mark us with their eyes open."

Zanu-PF Copac co-chairperson Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana said the Constitution-making process showed that Zimbabweans could work together.

"I must say this constitutional process must go down as one of the process which brought national healing to our country," he said.

"We had to look each other in the eye and confront each other (during the Constitution-making process) but eventually we found one another.

"We are also happy that colleagues we led in the outreach showed the way by operating as one."

Cde Mangwana narrated the process from when it commenced in April 2009 and the various challenges they faced along the way until principals concluded the process last month.

He said US$45,7 million had been spent on the process, with Government providing US$24,7 million while donors gave US$21 million.

"People will ask me why (we spent that much), but I will say democracy is expensive, people have lost lives for democracy and we have only spent money," said Cde Mangwana.

"I am happy to say it was money well spent and every cent has been accounted for."

MDC Copac co-chairperson Mr Edward Mkhosi commended the influence of the principals in diffusing tension in Copac.

"Their presence at the centre made the difference. We were able to go out as sons and daughters of the same mother," he said.

"Even when the first draft was produced, the process almost collapsed because of differences, but again they rescued it."

Contributing to the debate, Mwenezi legislator Cde Kudakwashe Bhasikiti said: "I have no doubt that the document we have produced is people-driven, it is a document by the people for the people and satisfies all the democratic principles."

Harare West representative Ms Jessie Majome said the draft had enabled Zimbabwe to make giant steps in enforcing gender equality.

"Zimbabwe's current Constitution did not adequately provide for rights of women, but I want to celebrate that Zimbabwe has taken steps in making sure that Zimbabwe departs from this sad scenario," she said.

"This draft Constitution puts Zimbabwe on the path of fulfilling the protocol on gender equality."

Ms Majome said the draft constitution was the biggest achievement for Zimbabwean women since the enactment of the Legal Age of Majority Act in 1985.

Mutoko South representative Cde Olivia Muchena commended the unity of purpose shown by Zimbabweans and appealed to Zimbabweans to read the document and not rely on hearsay.

"It is important that Zimbabweans take ownership of the document and internalise it so that when the need arises they can use it," Cde Muchena said.

Mazowe North legislator Cde Cairo Mhandu said: "This document is afulfilment of our liberation struggle as we now have a home grown constitution. What is now left is to implement what is contained in the constitution."

Harare North representative Mrs Theresa Makone concurred saying: "We appreciate the work that was done by Copac and by our three co-chairs as well as the principals.

"What is important now is as Zimbabweans we must become people who are constitutional. All Zimbabweans must be taught of the contents of this constitution and there must be no reservations in its implementation."

The Senate debated the draft's national report and is expected to adopt it today.

All political parties represented in the Senate concurred that the peaceful co-existence demonstrated by the principals in the Global Political Agreement had helped the drafters to tolerate each other and work together.

Matabeleland North Governor and Resident Minister, Senator Thokozile Mathuthu moved the motion and was seconded by MDC legislator for Tsholotsho, Senator Believe Gaule.

Sen Mathuthu said the constitution-making process was people driven and was done in the spirit of oneness, though it was adopted at a time when there was serious political polarisation and negative media publicity.

"The situation was further aggravated by the fact that there was no elaborate funding for the process, but through resilience we held on," she said.

"The process has in fact helped reduce political tensions among citizens and promoted a high level of tolerance, togetherness and sense of resilience."

Sen Gaule said drafters of the constitution were not chosen on partisan grounds. "It was just like the liberation struggle that involved many people, from the armed cadres to the civilian population," she said.

"Every citizen participated in the process, which allowed it to capture the views of all the people. What we have now is something different from the constitution we inherited from Britain at the Lancaster House in 1979."

Senator Alice Chimbudzi (Zanu-PF, Mount Darwin) said: "We are happy that women were represented in the process. The participation of women in the process enabled other women from the generality of Zimbabwe to feel involved and add their voices."

Mzilikazi MDC-T Senator Mr Matson Hlalo said the spirit of Mbuya Nehanda had prevailed, allowing people from all parties to work together peacefully and challenged all parties to preach peace and uphold it up to the time of the general elections.

"At first we were all suspicious of each other, but later realised that the country was bigger than any political party. The constitution-making process called on all Zimbabweans to find each other and that is what we did," he said. If the constitution is adopted at the referendum, it will return to Parliament as a Constitutional Bill so that it goes through the legal procedures required before President Mugabe signs it into law.

The new constitution would pave way for the much awaited-harmonised elections expected this year without fail. The Senate also debated a motion on the death of Vice President John Nkomo and hailed his contribution to the nation.

Zanu-PF national chairman Ambassador Simon Khaya Moyo said Zimbabwe lost a great nationalist in VP Nkomo.

"The late Cde Nkomo was a man with the nation at his heart," he said. "He always put the nation first and was heavily involved in the formation of the Government of National Unity as well as the unity between Zanu-PF and Zapu. "At the time of his death, he had just accomplished building a school in Matabeleland as a way of promoting education. He was an educationist in his own right."

Bulilima-Mangwe Senator Addington Tapela (MDC) stressed that the late VP Nkomo was a very humble figure who did not throw his weight about.

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