12 March 2013

Zimbabwe: Confusion Grows Over Constitution 'Anomalies'

Zimbabweans have raised concern about 'anomalies' in the abridged version of the draft constitution, which are causing serious confusion ahead of the referendum.

The vote is set to take place over a period of 12 hours on Saturday and Zimbabweans will be asked for vote 'yes' or 'no' for the draft charter. An abridged version of that draft was recently released to give people an overview of the more than 170 page document.

The abridged version is much shorter at 45 pages. The parliamentary team tasked with producing the draft, COPAC, has said that although the shorter version deliberately excludes some part of the full constitution, this should in no way affect the public's ability to make an informed decision at the referendum.

But the publication and distribution of the abridged document has only served to heighten confusion. Some issues that do not appear in the main full text draft have inexplicably been included in the short version, while key issues have been completely left out of the 45 page reproduction.

The most noticeable anomaly has been the inclusion of the 'dual citizenship' right, which according to the abridged copy is "automatically permitted in respect of Zimbabweans by birth." This is in stark contrast to the main draft, which does not explicitly state this right, but only states that an act of Parliament may prohibit it.

Another key element of the main draft is the inclusion of a clause on discrimination, which fundamentally states that discrimination "is unfair unless it is established that the discrimination is fair." This provision, which has been described as a serious impediment to Zimbabwe's human rights commitments, is completely left out of the abridged draft.

SW Radio Africa's correspondent Simon Muchemwa explained that there are many other issues that are causing confusion, and the few Zimbabweans that have managed to secure both copies are raising concerns. He said the key issue is that the two versions can be interpreted very differently, and this lack of clarity has the potential to be very damaging.

"It is very worrisome at the moment as people begin to critique the constitution as there are so many things that have been left out and so many things that have been added. The language they are using now (in the abridged version) has actually changed the meaning of the draft and that is disastrous," Muchemwa said.

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