18 February 2013

Zimbabwe: NCA to File Urgent Application to Stop March Referendum

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) will file an urgent High Court Application on Tuesday seeking an extension of the referendum date which is set for March 16th, saying the public has not been given time to read and understand the complex draft constitution.

One of the lawyers representing the NCA, Andrew Makoni, confirmed the papers will be filed on Tuesday.

The pressure group said in a statement on Monday that Zimbabweans would need at least two months, and not 30 days, to conduct civic education to analyse the draft charter so that they can make informed decisions on what they will be voting for.

The NCA accuses ZANU PF and the two MDC formations of fast tracking the process, as a ploy to deny Zimbabweans a chance to "scrutinise the flawed and undemocratic draft which they authored."

Political activist and University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Munyaradzi Gwisai, also told SW Radio Africa: "There are no bread and butter socio economic rights for women, for students, for workers in this constitution. It's a constitution for the rich and the politicians."

The draft charter was presented to Parliament on February 6th and it only took the House of Assembly 24 hours to adopt and approve the draft. This was followed by a government gazette a week later, stating that the referendum will be held next month. The Global Political Agreement, signed by all the partners in government, says that "a Referendum must be held "within three months of the conclusion of the debate."

Last week President Robert Mugabe provided more proof that the draft charter was not crafted from views gathered during the outreach programme, but that it was a product of compromise between the political parties in the inclusive government.

Speaking at an annual general meeting for traditional chiefs in Masvingo, Mugabe said ZANU PF party may amend the new charter if they win the elections.

Gwisai called on every democrat to support the NCA application for a NO vote at the referendum saying: "COPAC and the politicians have gone too far. They lied to people that they will have a people driven process involving the people of Zimbabwe, but when it came to the final draft they put their own lawyers, and finally it was done by the principals."

"The politicians must respect the people. We don't even have the draft constitution yet and yet we are only being given three weeks."

Meanwhile, COPAC embarked on a nationwide publicity campaign Monday to inform people and raise awareness on the contents of the proposed legal document.

The government said it is printing 90,000 copies of the draft, including 70,000 in English and the rest in local languages. 500 copies will be translated into Braille.

The NCA described the government proclamation as 'ridiculous' and meaningless as the government says they will be distributing '100,000 copies of the draft and yet Zimbabwe has a population of more than 13 million people."

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