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Referendum Characterised By Intimidation And Voter Apathy
Tendai Biti

Tendai Biti has complained of abduction and intimidation

Simon Muchemwa
16 March 2013

Movement for Democratic Change Secretary General Tendai Biti has complained of abduction and intimidation on the day Zimbabweans were expected to decide the fate of the draft constitution (see audio clips below).

Speaking to the media at Harvest House, Biti said Samson Magumise an MDC-T activists from Headlands was abducted at gun point in the early hours.

Magumise was picked up by three unknown men and a woman driving a white truck ABG 7038.

Biti reported of more cases of arrest and intimidation in Mbare, Headlands, Kariba and Bindura.

He added that voters in Hurungwe, Chakari, Muzvezve and Zvimba North were being asked to submit their names to known Zanu PF supporters.

Meanwhile the referendum was largely characterised by voter apathy as voters ignored appeals by political leaders in the government of national unity to go and vote for the new constitution.

Not a very busy day at the polling station

Few people could be seen at polling stations in Harare with Zimbabweans opting to stay at home.

Some people who did not vote complained of lack of information.

Voters were not given enough copies of the draft constitution and there were no indications leading to polling stations in certain areas.

Some voters who were eager to vote had to ask for directions to polling stations of their choice.

Some voters expressed confusion as they expected to see party logos on the ballot papers.

Meanwhile President Mugabe accompanied by his wife Grace and daughter Bona voted at Mhofu government primary school in Highfields.

He attacked the west soon after casting his vote.

Asked why there were no foreign observers, Mugabe responded “The Europeans and the Americans have imposed sanctions on us, and we keep them out in the same way they keep us out.

Tsvangirai and his wife Elizabeth cast their votes in the referendum on the new Constitution at Chaminuka Primary School in St Marys, Chitungwiza.

Addressing journalists soon after casting his vote, Tsvangirai said by voting in the referendum the people of Zimbabwe will have taken one of the most historic steps since the constitutional movement was formed.

“This is a journey that we have travelled. Those who have lost their lives will rest in peace because this is an important stage that we have been fighting for,” said Tsvangirai.



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Armed kidnapping mars Zimbabwe constitution vote

Sapa-AFP | 16 March, 2013 16:07

Gunmen abducted an ally of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on
Saturday, his party said, as the country voted on a new constitution amid
seething political tensions.

Samson Magumura, a regional official from Tsvangirai's Movement for
Democratic Change, was seized at his home southeast of Harare shortly before
dawn, according to party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora.

"Our district secretary for Headlands was kidnapped this morning. He was
taken from his home by armed people," Mwonzora told AFP.

Magumura's whereabouts remain unknown.

The MDC suggested his assailants, four armed men driving a white four wheel
drive, where linked to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

The gunmen also seized a telephone from Magumura's wife during the attack,
the party said.

The incident came as polls opened in a key referendum on a new constitution
that would curb 89-year-old Mugabe's powers and pave the way for fresh

The text is supported by both Mugabe and Tsvangirai. A "yes" vote is widely
expected but political tensions seethed beneath the surface.

Casting his ballot a few hours after polls opened, Tsvangirai expressed hope
that a positive outcome would help catapult the country out of crisis.

"I hope it sets in a political culture where we move from a culture of
impunity to a culture of constitutionalism," he said.

Around six million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots at 9,456
polling stations dotted across the impoverished southern African country.

Official results of the referendum are expected to be released within five
days of the vote. Polling stations will close at 1700 GMT.

But turnout was slow at many polling stations early on Saturday.

School teacher Petronella Dzikiti said she voted in favour of the new
constitution, in part because it would introduce presidential term limits.

"We don't want a situation like we have today, where some of us knew one
leader as a child who remains there when we are grown-ups," the 36-year-old
said outside a polling station in Chitungwiza, near the capital.

The new constitution would for the first time put a definite, if distant,
end date on Mugabe's 33-year rule.

Presidents would be allowed to serve two terms of five years each, meaning
that, elections permitting, Mugabe could rule until 2023, by which time he
would be 99-years-old.

The text would also strip away presidential immunity after leaving office
and bolster the independence and power of parliament and the courts.

It would also set up a peace and reconciliation commission to take care of
post-conflict justice and healing.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai's joint support for the draft constitution has
resulted in an uneasy truce.

Two people died in separate firebomb attacks in the run-up to the
referendum, while several MDC members, including a parliamentary candidate,
were beaten up on the eve of the vote as they were putting up posters
backing the draft constitution.

The authorities have also been accused of targeting pro-democracy groups by
arresting their leaders and seizing equipment.

But violence has not approached the levels seen in the disputed 2008
election, when at least 180 people were killed and 9,000 injured in unrest
that prompted the international community to force Mugabe and Tsvangirai
into a coalition government.

A general election slated for July is likely to end that often acrimonious
power-sharing arrangement.

Rights groups fear the government harassment seen ahead of the referendum
vote could be a prelude to a more serious crackdown on opponents in the
run-up to the general election.

Observers also fear there will not be enough time to apply all the necessary
reforms to ensure a healthier political environment before the next

They also say people have not had much opportunity to debate and digest the
text before voting, leaving citizens in the dark about what the vote will
mean for the country.

In Harare's flashpoint township of Mbare, where violence broke out on
Friday, Felistas Muridhini was one was one of dozens lining up to vote.

The 34-year-old mother said she had voted in favour of the draft.

"I have been following the drafting of the constitution. I voted yes,
because I was acting on my party's orders," she said.

The National Constitutional Assembly, a non-governmental group, wants to see
the new constitution rejected, arguing that if anything it grants Mugabe
more unfettered powers than before.

"This draft constitution is an insult to the people," said the group's
leader Lovemore Madhuku.

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Zimbabweans in 'peaceful' vote on new constitution

Zimbabweans have turned out to vote in a constitutional referendum which many hope may signal a new beginning for the fractured country.
By Peta Thornycroft in Harare and Aislinn Laing in Johannesburg5:28PM GMT 16 Mar 2013
Despite concerns about low turn-out by an electorate fearful after decades of political violence, people turned in large numbers at over 9,000 polling stations around the country.
Their response is expected to be an overwhelming “yes” to a draft endorsed by all the main political parties which limits presidential powers, curtails terms in office and makes it harder for the country’s security services to harass, detain and torture people.
With both Zanu-PF and the MDC backing the constitution, there was little sign of the bloodshed that has marked previous elections in Zimbabwe. Observers reported most polling stations opening as planned and operating efficiently.
Yet it appeared that in some areas, old habits were hard to shake. The Movement for Democratic Change said some of their members were attacked putting up posters encouraging people to vote yes the night before the poll.
Election observers also reported some instances where Zanu PF members had asked people going to vote to submit their names and addresses after voting.
Casting their votes with their wives, both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said they hoped that the new constitution would pave the way for a brighter future. Previously bitter rivals, they have spent the past four years in a fractious power-sharing government, which both are now keen to bring to an end with fresh elections.
"We want peace in the country. Peace, peace, peace. It must begin with Robert Mugabe and go on to you and everyone else," said Mr Mugabe as he voted in the Highfield township near downtown Harare.
Mr Tsvangirai voted at his new wife Elizabeth’s old school in Chitungwiza, a town 25 miles south of Harare, said he hoped it would bring about a new political dispensation.
“This is a journey that we have travelled. Those who have lost their lives will rest in peace because this is an important stage that we have been fighting for,” he said. “This is a journey to a free and fair election.”
After a delay to the process because of political wranglings over the final draft put to the vote, and a public information campaign cut short by a lack of funds, few Zimbabweans were sure of what they were voting for.
Abigail Punungwe, a young mother with a baby on her back in a line at one voting station in Harare, said she hadn't read the 170-page draft constitution "but everyone is saying we must vote for it."
"I think it means that we can’t have another president who will be in power for 33 years,” said Precious Mukadenge, 34, a mobile phone credit hawker in Harare’s smartest suburb, Borrowdale.
Mr Mugabe’s election in 1980 brought an end to decades of British colonial rule and then white minority rule in Ian Smith’s Rhodesia. He has remained in power ever since, and at 89 is now Africa’s oldest leader.
Over the years, he has altered Zimbabwe’s current constitution, thrashed out under the Lancaster House agreement in London before his election, to give himself, his party, Zanu PF, and the security forces who have propped him up, greater powers.
But he was forced into a power-sharing government after losing presidential elections to Mr Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change leader, in 2008.
If accepted by Zimbabwe’s populace as expected, the new constitution will set the stage for fresh elections in July this year to bring an end to the fractious coalition.
Mr Mudadenge said ending bloodshed was his greatest wish. “I hope this will mean an end to Zanu PF violence and that the police will not be so corrupt and harsh, but I know we are having elections this year and I hope there is no trouble like last time,” he said.
An emotional Tendai Biti, the MDC Finance Minister arriving at the polling both this morning to cast his “yes” vote, described it as “the most important thing I have done in my adult life apart from being a parent”.
He said that there had been a “slow start” in some provinces but areas such as Harare, Bulawayo and Manicaland have recorded a high turn out.
“We want to thank the people of Zimbabwe for understanding the historical gravity of this event,” he said.
Welshman Ncube, leader of MDC's smaller cousin party, the MDC-N, dismissed criticisms that the new constitution was too much of a compromise between the parties.
“We should never allow a utopian quest for the perfect constitution to be the enemy of a good constitution and there has never been a perfect constitution in the world,” he said.

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New constitution can be changed: PM

16/03/2013 00:00:00
     by Staff Reporters

MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said a new
constitution put to a national referendum Saturday can be amended to address
reservations raised by groups insisting the country could have come up with
a better supreme law.

Tsvangirai told church leaders, at a meeting ahead of Saturday’s referendum,
that although the draft new charter was not “100% perfect”, it was still an
important step in an on-going reform process.

Some of the church leaders had expressed concern over provisions relating to
abortion in the draft new charter.
“We improve our constitutional governance as we move (on) because we will
have gone through that experience. These loopholes that you (church leaders)
are pointing out - it’s already an experience. What is needed is political
will and experience to say this is not 100 percent perfect,” he said

“However people constantly through their parliaments through their
institutions must constantly subject this constitution (to debate) so that
it is relevant to contemporary society.

“This is a very big step, (but) lets subject into to further interrogation.
This is where we are clashing with (National Constitutional Assembly leader,
Lovemore) Madhuku. We can’t throw away the baby with the bath water. This is
a good step forward for the country.

“If you want an improvement we will deal with that later.  Even (President
Robert) Mugabe said if they win (elections later this year) they will change
the constitution. l don’t know if they want to bring back the 291 issues
they wanted (included).

“So, let us submit our Constitution to further discussion; toitazve mamwe
maCOPAC outreach meetings vanhu vachiita subject this to further debate.
But Madhuku, whose organisation urged Zimbabweans to reject the new charter,
said the fact that the document could be amended was one of its key

“They still provide in the constitution that, except for the Bill of Rights
and some provisions on land, the rest of the constitution can be amended by
parliament with a two thirds majority like we have currently,” Madhuku said
in an interview with the UK-based SWRadio Africa.

“So you’ll have the problem of continuous amendments of the constitution
when it becomes law.”
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai also urged the African Union (AU) and the regional
SADC grouping to help ensure parties respect the new constitution once it is
adopted as the country’s supreme law.

“SADC and AU as the guarantors of this agreement must ensure full compliance
and implementation of this constitution once the people endorse it,” the
MDC-T leader said in a statement ahead of the referendum.

“This is important because in the past four years we have realised we can
agree on many key issues but fall dismally short on implementation. This
constitution must be respected and implemented to the spirit and letter.”

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SADC observers glide through polling stations


by Own Correspondent

Voters in central Harare have expressed concern at the manner in which the
Southern African Development Community observers carried out their duties,
saying the team only made brief appearances at polling stations.

At Parirenyatwa, for instance, the SADC team, voters told The Zimbabwean,
did not last beyond a quarter of an hour at the polling station whey they
apppended their signatures as proof that they had observed the voting

“They were here for about 15 minutes and left as quickly as they arrived and
I wonder what exactly it is that they observed in such a short space of
time,” said one voter. “How then are they going to come up with an accurate
assessment of how the voting was done? Maybe their superiors need to work on
increasing their numbers because they are probably stretched,” she added.

The Zimbabwean could not establish how the team conducted itself at other
polling stations, though. The observers started arriving on Monday, with 40
members from the Sadc Parliamentary Forum jetting into the country.

The team was led by Prince Guduza Dlamini, who is the Speaker of the
National Assembly of Swaziland and it deployed its members to the country's
10 provinces on Tuesday.

The observation team comprised parliamentarians from Botswana, Democratic
Republic of Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa,
Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia.

SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Augusto Salomao, is also in the country with
the team of observers.

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Patients excluded from referendum


by Staff Reporter

Patients admitted at Parirenyatwa Group of hospitals have challenged the
relevant authorities to make provisions that ensure that they also take part
in elections.

Despite a polling station being established at the Parirenyatwa Group of
Hospitals, patients here were excluded from voting in the referendum that
began and ended on Saturday and called on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
to include them in future elections.

“Being sick and admitted in hospital should not bar me from exercising my
democratic right to vote,” said one patient at the hospital.

“Although they have told us that there is a polling station outside, not all
of us are able to make it to the polling station. I cannot even walk to the
toilet and I do not know how they expect me to walk the nearly 100 meter
distance to the polling station,” added the patient.

Another patient from Ward C said: “I jokingly told the nurse to take me to
the polling station outside to which she replied that they are not on ZEC’s
payroll to be carrying patients to go and vote. They are justified but we
are asking that our plight as patients is also considered, especially for
the general elections that we hear will take place this year.”

Doctors, nurses and members of the public, the majority of whom were
visiting their sick relatives, could be seen utilising the polling station
to cast their vote in the constitutional referendum.

A guard manning the entrance to the hospital professed ignorance on whether
the polling officers had moved around the wards and assisted patients who
wanted to vote.

“I have not seen any patients coming out to go and vote but I would like to
think ZEC officials did their rounds in the wards and those that wanted to
vote should have voted. It is the only logical thing, I think,” said the

Discharged mothers at the hospital could be seen voting and said they were
generally satisfied with the short queues and the efficiency by the polling

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High forced voter turnout at Chikurubi


by Staff Reporter

Chikurubi Support Unit today possibly recorded the highest voter turnout
with long queues from morning till 7pm, confirming reports that senior
police officers had been coercing details and prison guards in the camp to
go and vote..

Although The Zimbabwean could not establish the number of people who cast
their vote at Chikurubi Support Unit, long winding queues were visible the
whole day while voter apathy hit neighbouring Mabvuku-Tafara constituency.

Reports from people residing in the camp indicate that senior police
officers had been forcing people to go and vote for the draft constitution.

“Today it was a must go for everyone. Several meetings had been addressed by
senior police officers in charge of the camp. They openly warned residents
that those who would not vote for the draft faced eviction from the camp,”
one resident who refused to be named for fear of reprisals said.

The source said similar force would be used in the camp to get people to
vote for Zanu (PF) in the next election.

Residents have already been ordered to register as voters and produce
registration evidence, reportedly from an order by Commissioner General
Augustine Chihuri.

While polling agents were kept busy at Chikurubi, Mabvuku-Tafara, one of
Harare’s oldest high density suburbs had low voter turnout with several
voters being turned away, most of them aliens.

At Jonny Tapedza Open Space and Mabvuku Primary School polling stations,
voters were trickling in at distant intervals the whole day with the
situation getting worse at the close of business.

Some residents in Mabvuku said they had nothing to vote for because they had
not seen the draft constitution while others said they were not even aware
of what was going on.

It was business as usual in Mabvuku-Tafara.

The Zimbabwean could not establish the actual voter statistics in the
constituency with officials from the Command Centre referring all questions
to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the authority in charge of elections
in Zimbabwe.

Independent election observer group, Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network said
voting was conducted peacefully throughout the country.

“ We are yet to get the full details from provinces but generally voting was
done peacefully,” said Solomon Zwana, ZESN Chairperson.

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Photo journalists barred from taking pictures


by Staff Reporter

Two photo journalists were this afternoon barred from taking pictures at
Parirenyatwa Hospital, Avondale and Marlborough polling stations during
their coverage of the constitutional referendum.

The duo, who waited for communication from the national command centre for
about an hour ended up abandoning their duties. They advised The Zimbabwean
that they were not comfortable being named.

The duo, duly accredited by Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission to cover the constitutional referendum, expressed
displeasure at the way they were treated by the polling officers at the
three polling centres.

“The challenge is that there are many anomalies in how the polling agents
are treating photo journalists,” said one of the journalists.

“We never had any challenges at Girls High School Harare, and many other
centres in Avondale and Malborough where upon production of the
accreditation card, the polling agent gave us the nod to take pictures,”
said one of the camera persons.

She said they were told to take pictures outside the polling station at one
polling station in Avondale and another one in Malborough’s ‘Red Roofs’
area, but, mysteriously, were barred at the centres in question.

Meanwhile, voters in the northern suburbs of Harare commended the Zimbabwe
Republic Police for exhibiting professionalism at the polling stations.

The physically challenged and the elderly were being given first preference
to vote, a move which was commended by most voters.

Police officers at Avondale Primary School could be seen assisting the
elderly and the physically challenged by directing them to the front of the
queues to vote.

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Zimbabwe Refuses to Accredit VOA International Correspondent

Tatenda Gumbo, Blessing Zulu

WASHINGTON — With the whole world watching Saturday’s referendum, elements
of Zimbabwe’s government remain hostile to foreign media coverage.

A Voice of America correspondent in Johannesburg was Thursday deported from
Harare and barred from covering the referendum after authorities denied her

Anita Powell submitted an application to the Zimbabwe Media Commission to
cover the referendum but had not received a response by the time she landed
in Harare.

Powell was informed she would need a letter of clearance from the Ministry
of Information to receive accreditation from the media commissio. She met
with Information Ministry permanent secretary George Charamba but was told
her application was denied.

She was required to leave the country before her visa expired.

VOA tried calling Mr. Charamba several times Friday, but our calls were not
picked up.

VOA spoke to Deputy Information Minister Murisi Zwizwai, who said there are
some in the ministry who simply do not want to accredit international
journalists to cover Zimbabwean events.

Mr. Zwizwai said the monopolization of the ministry by certain individuals
would not be tolerated.

"We are having a referendum where everyone should have access and see all
the processes going through and its a pitty if an individual mistakes Voice
of America for Studio 7 and then begrudges and come up with such verdicts,"
said Zwizwai

Voluntary Media Council executive director Takura Zhangazha criticized the
ministry’s actions, saying government should be open to international media
as the world watches the referendum vote.

Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu-PF traded barbs after political violence
broke out in Mbare high density suburb, Harare.

Zanu-PF supporters allegedly assaulted nine MDC supporters and a British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) camera crew that was covering the event was
not spared the beating.

Zanu-PF dismissed the incident as propaganda.

The BBC said its crew was in the high density suburb of Mbare filming the
nine MDC supporters putting up posters encouraging people to vote ‘Yes’ in
Saturday’s referendum.

A Southern African Development Community (SADC) observer team in Zimbabwe
for the referendum visited the MDC members and condemned the violence.

SADC executive secretary Tomaz Salomao told VOA that he will be briefed
about this and any other incidents of violence this evening.

Calls to Mbare Police Station went unanswered.

One of the alleged victims and aspiring MDC parliamentarian for Mbare, Sten
Zvorwadza, said that two MDC supporters sustained serious injuries.

He said while they were putting up posters, a group of people wearing
Zanu-PF regalia started acsended on them and started beating them up. In an
attempt to report the case to the police, Zvorwadza said police refused to
take their report because they were MDC supporters.

But Zanu-PF director for information Psychology Mazivisa accused the MDC of
trying to tarnish the party's image.

In Kwekwe, meanwhile, four MDC activists have been arrested and will spend
the weekend in the cells for allegedly being involved in a violent incident
the prime minister’s party is blaming on ZANU-PF.

Zimbabwe Organization for the Youth in Politics director Nkosilathi Moyo was
at the rally which was addressed by MDC secretary general Tendai Biti and
said a group called Al Shabab with ZANU PF links is responsible for the

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2 Years Late, Zimbabwe Votes on New Constitution

Published: March 16, 2013

HARARE, Zimbabwe — Batsi Munyaka, 27, an unemployed mechanic, had not read
the document that could govern his nation for decades to come. But he said
he was tired of trying to cobble together a living with little ventures that
did not add up to much, and he hoped that a new constitution, whatever its
provisions, could help get Zimbabwe’s economy on track.

“I have the right to vote, and maybe it can make a change in our country,”
he said with a shrug.

More than two years late — and in far smaller and less enthusiastic numbers
than their leaders had hoped for — Zimbabweans went to the polls on Saturday
to vote in a referendum on a new constitution, a crucial step toward holding
presidential elections this year.

The document was the product of endless months of tortured negotiations
between ZANU-PF, the party of the longtime president, Robert Mugabe, and the
two factions of the rival Movement for Democratic Change.

The results of the vote are expected within five days, one of the last steps
in the long process intended to set Zimbabwe back on the path of normalcy.
That route was laid out after the disastrous 2008 presidential election, in
which the opposition leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, won the most votes but then
refused to participate in a runoff after his supporters endured a violent
onslaught by Mugabe loyalists.

Eventually, regional leaders brokered an agreement in which Mr. Mugabe would
share power with Mr. Tsvangirai as part of a transitional government that
would overhaul the country’s brutal and deeply politicized security
services, stabilize its bottomed-out economy and write a new constitution as
a prelude to fresh elections. It was supposed to take 18 months, but the
process has dragged on for four years. Switching to the United States dollar
has arrested the hyperinflation that crippled the economy, but the country’s
security forces remain unchanged and firmly in the grips of Mr. Mugabe and
his allies.

The new constitution was meant to help resolve some of the festering
problems that have kept Zimbabwe, once one of Africa’s most stable and
prosperous nations, mired in crisis.

Opposition parties had initially wanted a less powerful presidency, more
power for provincial and local officials, and a strengthening of the rule of
law. Mr. Mugabe’s all-encompassing power, they argued, had allowed him to
lead Zimbabwe into chaos by seizing land, stacking the courts with his
allies and making disastrous economic policy with the stroke of a pen.

In the new constitution, the president’s power to rule by decree is
curtailed, and the document bolsters the bill of rights by banning cruel
punishments and torture. But critics say the draft retains many of the
president’s powers and does not do enough to increase oversight.

“This will create one monster who will determine the future of this
 country,” said Job Sikhala, leader of a breakaway faction of the Movement
for Democratic Change known as M.D.C.-99, who urged people to vote against
the new constitution. “Is that what we fought for?”

Top officials of Mr. Mugabe’s party, ZANU-PF, campaigned hard for a “yes”
vote, seeing the approval of the constitution as the fastest way to get to
presidential elections, which are supposed to be held later this year.

Simon K. Moyo, a senior party leader, said in an interview that the draft
had emerged from a public process and reflected the will of Zimbabweans.

“This is the people’s constitution,” Mr. Moyo said. “The people have given
this constitution. So why would they vote against themselves?”

The main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change is also supporting
the new constitution, arguing that it reflects the best bargain that could
be won at this stage.

“It is the M.D.C. that single-handedly forced Mr. Mugabe to come to the
negotiating table, kicking and screaming, to agree to the new draft
constitution,” Mr. Tsvangirai, who has been serving as prime minister, said
at a rally in Bulawayo on Thursday. “That is why you must all vote yes.”

Lovemore Madhuku, a leader of the National Constitutional Assembly, a civic
group that urged people to vote against the constitution, said the document
represented a compromise between political enemies, not an expression of how
Zimbabwe’s people wish to be governed.

“A democratic constitution must come from a democratic process that must be
dominated by the wishes of the people,” Mr. Madhuku said. “Almost every
Zimbabwean accepts that the process was not a good process.”

The initial draft of the constitution was shaped by public meetings and
outreach to Zimbabweans, as required by the agreement that created the
power-sharing government. But ZANU-PF objected to many of its provisions,
and several messy rounds of bargaining produced a very different final

“Two political parties agreed to rubber-stamp a conglomeration of their own
ideas into national law so that they go for elections,” said an editorial in
News Day, an independent daily newspaper. “There is absolutely no doubt that
most Zimbabweans that are voting today are doing so blindly.”

The new constitution limits the president to two terms, a crucial provision
given that Mr. Mugabe, 89, has ruled Zimbabwe since its independence in
1980. But Mr. Mugabe’s previous terms will not count, so he is free to run
twice more. The new charter also increases the size of Parliament, which
critics say is wasteful because lawmakers get many perks but have few actual

Some women’s rights groups have praised the constitution for cementing
gender equality in Zimbabwe. The document also calls for the creation of a
constitutional court, which would replace the Supreme Court as the highest
court in the country and enforce fundamental rights.

Many voters have either not seen the new constitution or do not really
understand how it differs from the old one.

“I don’t know much about it, to be honest,” said Tanatswa Zimunya as a
friend braided her hair in a busy market in the township of Warren Park, at
the edge of Harare, the capital. “I will vote yes anyway.”

Given the disputed election in 2008, in which hundreds of people died in
bloody crackdowns on opposition supporters, Ms. Zimunya said she was simply
happy that the main political parties had finally agreed on a constitution.

“Whatever they decide is O.K.,” she said. “We need peace. We cannot have

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Born in Zimbabwe but denied the vote

Cathy Buckle
16 March 2013

Cathy Buckle on trying and failing to cast her ballot as an "alien" in the
referendum on the country's new constitution

Voting denied

Dear Family and Friends,

An hour after voting began in the constitutional referendum on the 16 the
March 2013, I went to the nearest polling station . It was a cool and
overcast morning and despite the central location in an urban area there
were no cars outside the school and only three people in the queue ahead of

As I waited my turn to go inside I thought back thirteen years to when I'd
last voted in a constitutional referendum. That was in February 2000, before
land invasions and economic meltdown, before farm takeovers and a decade of
political violence and power struggles. Thirteen years ago there had been
about a hundred people waiting to vote in the quiet rural area when the
polling station nearest our farm opened.

What a very different picture it was all these years later. It seemed to be
taking a long time to process just three people ahead of me and when my turn
came to go in, it got a lot longer. My ID card, a small plastic rectangle
about the size of a business card was checked by a woman at the door and I
was shown to the first official desk. A young man looked at my ID card for a
long time before he beckoned to the first woman and whispered to her.

She looked at my ID card again and whispered to someone else. I got out the
photocopy of my birth certificate proving I was a born Zimbabwean and a copy
of my latest electricity bill proving I was locally resident. By now three
electoral officials were studying my ID and other documents and whispering.
Finally they decided I had to go to officials sitting at a long table at the
far end of the school hall and show them my ID card.

First one official and then another studied my ID card closely. Again I took
out my birth certificate and electricity bill but they weren't happy. Then I
pulled out my trump card, a full page advertisement from the newspaper dated
one day before. The advert had been placed by COPAC the Constitutional
Select Committee.

This was the very organization that had just spent four years drafting the
constitution and COPAC gave reasons in the advert why people from all
different walks of life should vote YES in the referendum including women,
youths, elderly, disabled, workers, war veterans and members of the media.
The last entry on their full page advert said: ‘Why Aliens should Vote YES'
and the answer beneath the question read: "they will now be eligible to

"If COPAC are calling on Aliens to vote YES, surely I should be allowed to
vote?" I asked. The newspaper advert was studied closely, the date of the
paper was checked and it's fair to say that the two women officials, were as
confused as I was.

"Why does your ID say Alien?" one asked.

"Because my mother was not born in Zimbabwe I replied."

At that point I could have simply walked out but I waited patiently while
the officials entered my name and details onto a ‘voters denied register.'

Standing outside the polling station were two SADC election observers. They
asked me if something was wrong. They were as bemused and confused as
everyone else when I showed them my papers and said I hadn't been allowed to
vote. Here was a born, resident, tax- paying Zimbabwean classed as an Alien
and not allowed to vote because her parents had been born in another

Nine days before the referendum ZEC, (the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) who
were running the election today, had published a full page newspaper advert
inviting emailed queries from people about the election.

I had emailed them querying my eligibility but they didn't bother to reply
which was why I had bothered to go through this whole rigmarole at the
polling station today. ‘Maybe next time?" I said to the election officials
as I left. She smiled and agreed. Until next time, thanks for reading love

Until next
time, thanks for reading love cathy.

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A national non-event..?


The 16th March stands as a grand indictment of the Government of National Unity.  I have never seen such apathy and I am fast learning this same mood reigns across the country.  Is this because the populace is indifferent about the Constitution, cannot be bothered to vote, see no point as nothing will change or do not trust the process suspecting rigging?  I believe it is a combination of the above.

This morning the streets were strewn with flyers, Job Sikhala and the NCA urging a “No” vote, WOZA and Copac saying Yes.  But by lunch time the papers were gone, some picked up by the police, others taken home.  Hopefully all the paper will be recycled.

NCA Flyer


There is a distinct, but somewhat benign, police presence.   However, in this country a police presence is always intimidating and I saw one group of about 40 cops marching around the busiest area.  But it was all business as usual in the CBD, with most supermarkets open, and some general shops as well.

There are more polling stations than ever before.  The lines are virtually non- existent, most having 5 or 10 waiting to vote.  Some are bereft of voters.  None are overflowing.

We sat and counted pink fingers at one busy supermarket, and we reckon that a mere 10% had had their fingers dipped.   This was in the mid afternoon, I doubt anything will change by close of polling stations.

The last time we had a referendum it opened the door to violent land seizures and 13 years of decay, I wonder what today’s events will unfold.

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Zimbabwe constitutional referendum: Why it matters

Zimbabwe's constitutional referendum may change little in the country in
practical terms but is an important litmus test for the national elections
expected in July this year, according to analysts.

Aislinn LaingBy Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg and Peta Thornycroft in Harare
9:54AM GMT 16 Mar 2013

The constitution, which is expected to pass without issue as it has been
agreed by all the main parties, provides some checks on power. It also opens
a new chapter in the history of a country run by one man, Robert Mugabe,
since independence in 1980.

It heralds the beginning of the end for the fractious coalition government,
which saw Mr Mugabe's Zanu PF run Zimbabwe with Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC in a
regionally-brokered deal, following bloody presidential elections in 2008.

The new constitution, whose drafting was funded by development partners
including the UK, limits future president candidates to two terms in office
and allows for their removal if they are found guilty of serious misconduct,
violate the constitution or are physically or mentally incapacitated.

The declaration of a state of emergency must be approved by parliament after
14 days, and Zimbabweans are guaranteed freedom from torture, detention
without trial or degrading treatment.

The security forces, so prominent in Zimbabwe's recent political history,
are banned from being members of a political party.

A Constitutional Court will be set up along with a Human Rights Commission –
although it cannot look backwards – and judges can no longer be appointed by
the president.

The draft constitution bans gay marriage and retains capital punishment,
though not for women or anyone over 70 years old.

Constitutional provisions on land ownership mean white-run commercial farms,
seized since 2000 by militants with Mr Mugabe's backing and given to mainly
black subsistence farmers, will not be returned to their former owners.

Most commentators view it as a compromise – the original document was
watered down after the intervention of party chiefs keen to score political

Speaking to journalists in Johannesburg last week, Tendai Biti, the MDC
Finance Minister, said it was a "miracle" that it had come so far.

"It was not easy to arrange it and chaos factions were determined that it
would not see the light of day," Mr Biti said. "It's a miracle really that
we have got to where we are and we hope that that miracle will come to
fruition." He said that it also represented an important break with the
past – Zimbabwe has not had a proper constitution since the UK-brokered
peace deal between Mr Mugabe's independence fighters and Ian Smith's
Rhodesian regime, signed at Lancaster House in London in 1979.

"The Lancaster House agreement is still a statutory instrument of the UK
government and it's embarrassing," Mr Biti said. "The new constitution is a
source of pride for Zimbabweans. It's a u-turn to the current trajectory of

Zimbabwe's first attempt at a new constitution in 2000 was also presented as
a break with colonialism, but it was narrowly defeated after an MDC "no"
campaign. The defeat was a blow to Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, then in sole
charge of the country.

It had proposed legalising the seizure of white-owned farms without
compensation, strengthen the hand of the president and provide immunity for
politicians and military officials.

Saturday's referendum vote is in itself not expected to be controversial but
it has focused minds on the far more controversial national elections
expected in July this year.

Zimbabwe's Electoral Commission appears to be treating it as a dry-run for
the bigger event. On Friday it announced that 2,000 local and foreign
observers had been accredited, and while no one expects any fraud, ballot
boxes will be inspected and sealed in line with best practice.

Zimbabwe's security forces and militant youths seem too to be using it as
practice for "real" violence and intimidation later on.

Last month, the police snatched mobile phones and short-wave radios from a
charity planning to set up a crowd-sourcing network where people can text
warnings of violence to a central hub, similar to that seen in the 2008
Kenyan elections.

Human rights lawyers and NGOs have found themselves once again subject to
unwelcome attention from the security forces, and this week, Zanu PF youths
set on an MDC activist putting up "vote yes!" referendum posters in a Harare

Amnesty International this week called on the Zimbabwean authorities to stop
"game playing" and allow the referendum to take place in a peaceful and safe

"Previous polls in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence and human
rights abuses. Saturday offers the country a chance to prove it can make a
break with the past," said Noel Kututwa, from Amnesty.

Given that there is little opposition to the constitution being adopted, and
because of Zimbabweans' understandable reticence at going to vote given
their recent history, turnout for the 7am to 7pm vote is expected to be low.

Most people are also not sure what they are voting for. According to civil
society groups who wanted to mobilise a "no" campaign but ran out of funds,
the ZEC has failed to muster a decent information campaign, and printed just
70,000 copies of the draft for nearly six million voters.

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Constitution Watch 22/2013 of 16th March [Court Cases Fail to Delay the Referendum ]


[16th March 2013]

Court Cases Fail to Delay the Referendum

ACHPR Measure to Allow Diaspora Vote in Referendum Ignored by Government

THE African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights [ACHPR] has passed a provisional measure allowing exiled Zimbabweans and those living abroad to vote in the Referendum on Saturday 16th March and the general elections scheduled thereafter.  The Commission’s decision upheld the complaint that the applicants were being denied their rights and ruled that the applicants had made out a prime facie case that the present position was in breach of the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights.  The Commission accordingly granted a provisional order directing the government to provide all eligible voters living outside Zimbabwe the same voting facilities it affords to Zimbabweans working abroad in the service of the government.  Provisional measures are binding or obligatory to stop or prevent a human rights violation.  The State concerned is requested to comply before a final decision is taken in the case, and its Government is obliged under AU rules to report back to the Commission on its implementation of the provisional measure.  There has been no evidence of State recognition or reaction to this ruling.

Supreme Court Rejected NCA Appeal on Case to Postpone Referendum

In a specially scheduled urgent hearing of this appeal on 13th March, the Supreme Court effectively confirmed 16th March as the date of the Referendum.  First, the court decided that Judge-President Chiweshe had been wrong when on 28th February he decided that the President’s decision was not subject to judicial review by the High Court.  Normally that would have resulted in the case being sent back to the High Court for Justice Chiweshe to consider the merits of the NCA’s complaint that the President’s decision to give only one month’s notice of the Referendum was arbitrary, irrational and grossly unreasonable” and therefore invalid.   But, in view of the urgency – the Referendum being only three days away – and because it was in as good a position as the High Court to decide the case on the papers lodged by the parties, the Supreme Court went straight on to consider the merits of the NCA case.  On the merits the court unanimously decided the case against the NCA, holding that its evidence did not establish its complaint.  The court therefore dismissed the appeal.  Result:  16th March stands as the date for the Referendum.

Supreme Court Case on ZEC Refusal to Respond to Complaints by NO Vote Campaigners

On the afternoonof 15th March a case was heard that had been brought by Union leader Raymond Majongwe and International Socialist Organisation leader Munyaradzi Gwisai who had gone direct to the Supreme Court with an urgent chamber application seeking to stop the holding of the Referendum on 16th March.  The grounds were that ZEC had done nothing about their complaints that their Vote No campaign was being stifled contrary to the Electoral Act.  The court refused to hear the case on an urgent basis, saying the applicant’s request for it to do so had no merits; they had had plenty of time to act earlier but had not done so. 

NCA Supreme Court Case on Validity of Referendum Also Dismissed

At another hearing later on Friday afternoon 15th March the NCA constitutional application was heard in the Supreme Court.  The complaint was that the Referendum could not validly be conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] while it was led by an acting chairperson, who does not have the legal qualifications laid down by the Constitution for a substantive chairperson. 

An hour or two before the hearing commenced, however, Justice Rita Makarau was sworn in at State House as the new ZEC chairperson.  Justice Makarau had been chairperson designate of ZEC since the principals agreed on her nomination on 16th February, although her formal appointment, swearing-in and assumption of office had been delayed pending completion of the President’s consultations with the Judicial Service Commission and Parliament’s Committee on Standing Rules and Orders, as required by the Constitution.  [Note: the views of the Judicial Service Commission have been officially conveyed to the President, but, according to a Parliamentary source, the views of the Parliamentary Committee have not, because not all the members have responded to the Speaker’s request to them to do so (Veritas has not been able to contact the Speaker to verify this).  This raises the question whether there has been compliance with the constitutional requirement of consultation with the Parliamentary Committee.]

As a result of the last-minute swearing-in of the new chairperson, the Supreme Court judges decided that the case no longer qualified as urgent.  Accordingly the hearing could not proceed on an urgent basis and it was adjourned indefinitely.

[As a matter of interest, Jacob Mudenda was sworn in at the same State House ceremony as the new Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission.]

High Court orders ZEC to Consider ZimRights Application for Observer Accreditation

On March 15th a case taken by civil society organisation Zimrights against ZEC was won.  The ZEC Observer Accreditation Committee had refused to entertain an application for accreditation of Referendum observers from ZimRights.  ZEC’s position was based on the fact that the organisation, and some of its officials, including its director Okay Machisa, were facing police charges on serious allegations of election-related offences – fraud, forgery and false statements concerning voter registration.  ZimRights lodged a High Court application challenging this refusal.  By the time the hearing in chambers commenced at 11.30 am on Friday morning, Justice Kudya, in a separate case, had granted a court order to Mr Machisa setting aside a magistrate’s decision to place him on remand on the fraud, forgery and false statement charges.

In these circumstances, it was not surprising that the brief hearing ended with ZEC acknowledging its error and consenting to Justice Mavangira’s granting an order compelling ZEC to consider the ZimRights application properly rather than rejecting it out of hand.

But, as of 10 am today, Referendum day – three hours after polling stations opened – the ZEC secretary told Veritas that ZimRights’s application for accreditation of observers was “still under consideration”.


Veritas makes every effort to ensure reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information supplied

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