14 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Referendum Date Set

Photo: IRIN
Hope in Harare.

GOVERNMENT has set March 16 as the date for the referendum on the draft Constitution, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga announced yesterday. "On my way from Mvurwi (in Mashonaland Central) I learnt that the Office of the President was looking for me.

"I was then advised through the Minister who stood in for me at that meeting that the principals wanted to convey to me that tentatively the referendum will be held on the 16th of March."

He said the referendum was likely to be held over two days if principals in the inclusive Government accepted his proposal.

Minister Matinenga said two days would allow people to express their will.

"I am trying to gain audience with the powers that be and try to argue with them for a two-day referendum," he said.

"In 2000, it (the referendum) was two days. If we were so mechanised, then you could say one day is sufficient," Minister Matinenga said.

He said his ministry had started publicity campaigns countrywide to explain the contents of the draft constitution to the people and expressed hope that at least two meetings will be held in every province.

He said the draft Constitution would be publicised in the Government Gazette for wider publicity.

"Any document of this nature must be officially publicised. On publication, in legal terms, is publication in the Government Gazette," said Minister Matinenga.

"Our intention as a ministry is to have this draft published on Friday (tomorrow) so that at least from a legal point of view it becomes a publication for the whole world.

"What it, therefore, means is that not only must we publish that draft by Friday, but that we must also do a proclamation with the President's signature again to be published by the same day." Minister Matinenga said the decision to announce referendum dates was not only technical, but political as well.

He said after the referendum, the draft would be taken back to Parliament to constitutionalise the Constitution Bill.

Minister Matinenga said the publicity campaign for the draft constitution would end on March 1 after which they would not entertain any new proposals.

For the purposes of publicising the draft constitution, Minister Matinenga suggested that the country suspends laws such as the Public Order and Security Act that requires people to apply for clearance from the police to hold public gatherings.

"In order to be liberal, it is important that we suspend these strictures to achieve what we want," he said.

Finance Minister Tendai Biti told parlimentarians in the Lower House yesterday that the United Nations had responded to Government's request for funds (US$250 million) to finance the referendum and the harmonised polls.

This followed a request by the Government for the UNDP to help source the funds.

Minister Biti was responding to Redcliff legislator Mr Settlement Chikwinya on whether or not funds for the two events had been secured.

"What we have done through the directions of principals is that we have begun a massive fundraising campaign and on February 4 we co-authored together with Minister (Patrick) Chinamasa to the UN requesting funding for the referendum and the general elections," he said.

"I am happy to inform the House that on the 8th of February we had a response from the UN inviting us to mention the ABC's of the request. The other measures we have taken include the disposal of the family souvenir although I am not going to mention what exactly and have taken additional fiscal measures."

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission requires US$85 million for the referendum and US$107 million for the general elections.

Copac announced yesterday that at least 90 000 copies of the proposed supreme law would be distributed in the country's districts as from Monday next week.

The plan was announced at a half day public awareness workshop for parliamentarians.

In his address to the MPs, Copac member and Deputy Minister for Education, Arts, Sports and Culture, Lazarus Dokora said Copac had identified the offices of provincial and district administrators as one avenue to publicise the document.

"Copac will liaise with PAs and DAs and seek assistance in distributing the draft," he said. "The administrators will be requested to ensure that they distribute the copies to representatives of all key sectors in their districts and provinces."

Printing of the draft is in progress and of the 90 000 copies being printed 20 000 would be in various local languages, while 70 000 would be in English.

Deputy Minister Dokora said Copac was producing an abridged version of the draft that would be distributed during the publicity campaign.

"Each district will receive a minimum of 500 copies of the draft constitution for distribution and these will include English and local languages," he said.

Parliamentarians would receive 20 copies for distribution in their respective constituencies, while Copac intends to translate 500 copies into braille.

Some MPs became rowdy towards the end of the workshop and nearly disrupted the vote of thanks delivered by Kadoma representative Ms Editor Matamisa, demanding to know if they would be paid for carrying out the awareness drive and campaign for a yes vote.

Copac officials told them that they were hamstrung financially and were not in a position to pay them.

Zanu PF co-chairperson Cde Paul Mangwana said it was the duty of every parliamentarian to publicise the document and campaign for a yes vote.

"Every member (of Parliament) has an obligation to conscientise members of the public and any other stakeholders in their constituencies of the provisions of the draft," he said.

"You are expected to know by heart the provisions of the constitution so that if you are asked by anyone about its provisions you are able to explain to them."

Deputy Speaker of the House of Assembly Ms Nomalanga Khumalo said there was no need for a no vote.

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