22 May 2013

Zimbabwe: Mugabe Signs New Constitution Into Law

Photo: IRIN
President Robert Mugabe.

President Robert Mugabe has signed into law a new constitution, which was approved by a large majority in a referendum in March this year.

The adoption of the new charter, which was published in the Government Gazette hours after Mugabe assented to it, is seen as key to ending a protracted period of political turmoil and economic uncertainty in the country.

The signing ceremony at State House in Harare was attended by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara who both praised the document as 'home grown', unlike the Lancaster House constitution.

Some parts of the new constitution came into operation immediately after it was gazetted on Wednesday, and these articles will override the corresponding parts in the old constitution.

The rest of the new constitution will come into effect the day a new President is sworn into office after the forthcoming harmonized elections. Parts of the new constitution that are in effect from Wednesday onwards are contained in the Sixth Schedule of the charter.

These are chapters relating to citizenship, the Declaration of Rights, elections and assumption of office of the President, and the election of Members of Parliament.

The new set of laws aim to curb the vast powers of the President and the security services that have enabled decades of impunity for the ruling elite and encouraged a ruinous system of political patronage. The new constitution also provides for devolved power to often-marginalised provinces, and improves civil rights and women's representation.

Despite an energetic campaign by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) to reject the laws, Zimbabweans overwhelmingly approved the constitution in a national referendum two months ago.

The March vote was peaceful, a marked contrast to the 2008 presidential elections that plunged the country into chaos. Passing a new constitution was a key element of the power-sharing deal to end the post-election chaos.

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