13 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Referendum Date Set

Photo: IRIN
Hope in Harare.

Harare — The principals to the Global Political Agreement have set March 16 as the date Zimbabwe will hold a referendum on the draft Constitution which a committee of Parliament recently produced.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Advocate Eric Matinenga today said the referendum would be held in a single day.

"On my way back from Mvurwi on Tuesday I was advised that the Office of the President was looking for me.

"Later I was advised that the principals to the global political agreement (GPA) had agreed to hold the referendum on the 16th of March," he said.

Matinenga said the draft document should be published in the Government Gazette by Friday this week while the President would also sign the proclamation the same day.

He said after the referendum, the draft would be taken back to Parliament for the Bill to be passed within the stipulated 30 days or less.

"From there on the country will be advised as to the next stage as we move towards elections," he said.

Matinenga said his ministry would persuade the principals to allow the referendum to be held over two days as was the case in 2000.

He said his ministry was currently holding two meetings in every province explaining the contents of the draft Constitution to the people.

"We have held two meetings in Bindura and Mvurwi in Mashonaland Central and we will be moving to Mashonaland West next."

Matinenga said though the meetings seemed few, Members of Parliament, organisations and individuals who had an obligation were free to go and explain to the people.

"We should not be persimisive and wait for government alone, people should be made to understand it but not seek to re-write the draft," he said.

On threats by the National Constitutional Assembly to take the government to court if it held the referendum without giving people two months to study the draft, Matinenga said there was no law in the country which stipulated the period between proclamation of the referendum and setting the dates.

"What is needed is striking a balance of giving people enough time to study the draft document," he said.

The process of crafting a new Constitution began in 2009 soon after the formation of the inclusive Government.

Parliament constituted the 25 member committee (Copac) to spearhead the process which was supposed to take eighteen months but dragged on for more than three years due to differences among the political parties.

Cabinet committee tasked to resolve outstanding issues also reached a deadlock resulting in the principals intervening and striking a deal on January 17 this year. - New Ziana

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