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Characterised By Intimidation And Voter Apathy
Tendai Biti has complained of
abduction and intimidation
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
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
Not a very busy day at the
Few people could be seen at
polling stations in Harare with Zimbabweans opting to stay at
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
Some voters expressed
confusion as they expected to see party logos on the ballot
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
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
kidnapping mars Zimbabwe constitution vote
Sapa-AFP | 16 March, 2013
Gunmen abducted an ally of Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan
Saturday, his party said, as the country voted on a new
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.
suggested his assailants, four armed men driving a white four wheel
where linked to President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
The gunmen also
seized a telephone from Magumura's wife during the attack,
The incident came as polls opened in a key referendum on a new
that would curb 89-year-old Mugabe's powers and pave the way
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
Around six million eligible voters are expected to cast ballots at
polling stations dotted across the impoverished southern African
Official results of the referendum are expected to be released
days of the vote. Polling stations will close at 1700
But turnout was slow at many polling stations early on
School teacher Petronella Dzikiti said she voted in favour of
constitution, in part because it would introduce presidential term
"We don't want a situation like we have today, where some of us
leader as a child who remains there when we are grown-ups," the
said outside a polling station in Chitungwiza, near the
The new constitution would for the first time put a definite, if
end date on Mugabe's 33-year rule.
Presidents would be
allowed to serve two terms of five years each, meaning
permitting, Mugabe could rule until 2023, by which time he
The text would also strip away presidential immunity after
and bolster the independence and power of parliament and the
It would also set up a peace and reconciliation commission to
take care of
post-conflict justice and healing.
Tsvangirai's joint support for the draft constitution has
resulted in an
Two people died in separate firebomb attacks in the run-up
referendum, while several MDC members, including a parliamentary
were beaten up on the eve of the vote as they were putting up
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
into a coalition government.
A general election slated
for July is likely to end that often acrimonious
Rights groups fear the government harassment seen ahead of
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
say people have not had much opportunity to debate and digest the
before voting, leaving citizens in the dark about what the vote will
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
The 34-year-old mother said she had voted in favour of the
"I have been following the drafting of the constitution. I voted
because I was acting on my party's orders," she said.
National Constitutional Assembly, a non-governmental group, wants to see
new constitution rejected, arguing that if anything it grants Mugabe
unfettered powers than before.
"This draft constitution is an insult to
the people," said the group's
leader Lovemore Madhuku.
Zimbabweans in 'peaceful' vote on new
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
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
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
“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,
But he was forced into a power-sharing government after losing presidential
elections to Mr Tsvangirai, the Movement for Democratic Change leader, in
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
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
“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.
constitution can be changed: PM
MDC-T leader and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has said
constitution put to a national referendum Saturday can be amended to
reservations raised by groups insisting the country could have come
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
Some of the church leaders had expressed concern over provisions
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
experience to say this is not 100 percent perfect,” he said
people constantly through their parliaments through their
constantly subject this constitution (to debate) so that
it is relevant to
“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
“If you want an improvement we will deal with that later. Even
Robert) Mugabe said if they win (elections later this year) they
the constitution. l don’t know if they want to bring back the
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
still provide in the constitution that, except for the Bill of Rights
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
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai also urged the African Union (AU) and the
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
implementation of this constitution once the people endorse it,” the
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.”
observers glide through polling stations
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
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
“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.
team comprised parliamentarians from Botswana, Democratic
Republic of Congo,
Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa,
Swaziland, Tanzania and
SADC Executive Secretary, Tomaz Augusto Salomao, is also in the
the team of observers.
excluded from referendum
Patients admitted at Parirenyatwa Group of hospitals have
relevant authorities to make provisions that ensure that they
also take part
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
“Being sick and admitted in hospital should not bar me from
democratic right to vote,” said one patient at the
“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
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,
the general elections that we hear will take place this
Doctors, nurses and members of the public, the majority of whom
visiting their sick relatives, could be seen utilising the polling
to cast their vote in the constitutional referendum.
manning the entrance to the hospital professed ignorance on whether
polling officers had moved around the wards and assisted patients who
“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
forced voter turnout at Chikurubi
Chikurubi Support Unit today possibly recorded the highest voter
with long queues from morning till 7pm, confirming reports that
police officers had been coercing details and prison guards in the
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
Residents have already been ordered to register as voters and
registration evidence, reportedly from an order by Commissioner
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
At Jonny Tapedza Open Space and Mabvuku Primary School polling
voters were trickling in at distant intervals the whole day with
situation getting worse at the close of business.
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
It was business as usual in Mabvuku-Tafara.
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
Independent election observer group, Zimbabwe Electoral
Support Network said
voting was conducted peacefully throughout the
“ We are yet to get the full details from provinces but
generally voting was
done peacefully,” said Solomon Zwana, ZESN Chairperson.
journalists barred from taking pictures
Two photo journalists were this afternoon barred from taking
Parirenyatwa Hospital, Avondale and Marlborough polling stations
their coverage of the constitutional referendum.
duo, who waited for communication from the national command centre for
an hour ended up abandoning their duties. They advised The Zimbabwean
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.
challenge is that there are many anomalies in how the polling agents
treating photo journalists,” said one of the journalists.
“We never had
any challenges at Girls High School Harare, and many other
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
She said they were told to take pictures outside the polling
station at one
polling station in Avondale and another one in Malborough’s
area, but, mysteriously, were barred at the centres in
Meanwhile, voters in the northern suburbs of Harare commended
Republic Police for exhibiting professionalism at the polling
The physically challenged and the elderly were being given
to vote, a move which was commended by most
Police officers at Avondale Primary School could be seen
elderly and the physically challenged by directing them to the
front of the
queues to vote.
Refuses to Accredit VOA International Correspondent
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
informed she would need a letter of clearance from the Ministry
Information to receive accreditation from the media commissio. She met
Information Ministry permanent secretary George Charamba but was told
application was denied.
She was required to leave the country before her
VOA tried calling Mr. Charamba several times Friday, but
our calls were not
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
Mr. Zwizwai said the monopolization of the ministry by certain
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,"
Voluntary Media Council executive director Takura Zhangazha
ministry’s actions, saying government should be open to
as the world watches the referendum
Meanwhile, the Movement for Democratic Change formation led
Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Zanu-PF traded barbs after political
broke out in Mbare high density suburb, Harare.
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
The BBC said its crew was in the high density suburb of Mbare
nine MDC supporters putting up posters encouraging people to
vote ‘Yes’ in
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
One of the alleged victims and aspiring MDC parliamentarian
for Mbare, Sten
Zvorwadza, said that two MDC supporters sustained serious
He said while they were putting up posters, a group of
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
But Zanu-PF director for information Psychology Mazivisa
accused the MDC of
trying to tarnish the party's image.
Kwekwe, meanwhile, four MDC activists have been arrested and will spend
weekend in the cells for allegedly being involved in a violent incident
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
2 Years Late,
Zimbabwe Votes on New Constitution
By LYDIA POLGREEN
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
“I have the right to vote, and maybe it can make a change in our
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
The document was the product of endless months of tortured
between ZANU-PF, the party of the longtime president, Robert
Mugabe, and the
two factions of the rival Movement for Democratic
The results of the vote are expected within five days, one of the
in the long process intended to set Zimbabwe back on the path of
That route was laid out after the disastrous 2008 presidential
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.
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
remain unchanged and firmly in the grips of Mr. Mugabe and
The new constitution was meant to help resolve some of the
problems that have kept Zimbabwe, once one of Africa’s most stable
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
torture. But critics say the draft retains many of the
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
The main faction of the Movement for Democratic Change is
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
“A democratic constitution must come from a democratic process
that must be
dominated by the wishes of the people,” Mr. Madhuku said.
Zimbabwean accepts that the process was not a good
The initial draft of the constitution was shaped by public
outreach to Zimbabweans, as required by the agreement that
power-sharing government. But ZANU-PF objected to many of its
and several messy rounds of bargaining produced a very different
“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
Many voters have either not seen the new constitution
or do not really
understand how it differs from the old one.
know much about it, to be honest,” said Tanatswa Zimunya as a
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.
decide is O.K.,” she said. “We need peace. We cannot have
in Zimbabwe but denied the vote
16 March 2013
Buckle on trying and failing to cast her ballot as an "alien" in the
referendum on the country's new constitution
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
and economic meltdown, before farm takeovers and a decade of
violence and power struggles. Thirteen years ago there had been
hundred people waiting to vote in the quiet rural area when the
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
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?"
"Because my mother was not born in Zimbabwe I
At that point I could have simply walked out but I waited
the officials entered my name and details onto a ‘voters
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
thanks for reading love cathy.
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.
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
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
Zimbabwe constitutional referendum: Why it
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.
LaingBy Aislinn Laing, Johannesburg and Peta Thornycroft in Harare
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
The new constitution, whose drafting was funded by development
including the UK, limits future president candidates to two terms
and allows for their removal if they are found guilty of serious
violate the constitution or are physically or mentally
The declaration of a state of emergency must be approved
by parliament after
14 days, and Zimbabweans are guaranteed freedom from
without trial or degrading treatment.
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
constitution bans gay marriage and retains capital punishment,
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
journalists in Johannesburg last week, Tendai Biti, the MDC
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
attempt at a new constitution in 2000 was also presented as
a break with
colonialism, but it was narrowly defeated after an MDC "no"
defeat was a blow to Robert Mugabe and Zanu PF, then in sole
charge of the
It had proposed legalising the seizure of white-owned farms
compensation, strengthen the hand of the president and provide
politicians and military officials.
referendum vote is in itself not expected to be controversial but
focused minds on the far more controversial national elections
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
observers had been accredited, and while no one expects any
boxes will be inspected and sealed in line with best
Zimbabwe's security forces and militant youths seem too to be
using it as
practice for "real" violence and intimidation later
Last month, the police snatched mobile phones and short-wave radios
charity planning to set up a crowd-sourcing network where people can
warnings of violence to a central hub, similar to that seen in the 2008
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
polls in Zimbabwe have been marred by political violence and human
abuses. Saturday offers the country a chance to prove it can make a
with the past," said Noel Kututwa, from Amnesty.
Given that there is
little opposition to the constitution being adopted, and
Zimbabweans' understandable reticence at going to vote given
history, turnout for the 7am to 7pm vote is expected to be low.
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.
Constitution Watch 22/2013 of 16th March [Court Cases Fail to Delay the Referendum ]
Cases Fail to Delay the Referendum
ACHPR Measure to
Allow Diaspora Vote in Referendum Ignored by
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
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.
Rejected NCA Appeal on Case to Postpone Referendum
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
Court Case on ZEC Refusal to Respond to Complaints by NO Vote Campaigners
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
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
[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.
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.]
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.
a matter of interest, Jacob Mudenda was sworn in at
the same State House ceremony as the new Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Human
Court orders ZEC to Consider ZimRights Application for Observer Accreditation
March 15th a case taken by civil society organisation Zimrights against ZEC was
won. The ZEC Observer
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.
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
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
Veritas makes every effort to ensure
reliable information, but cannot take legal responsibility for information