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Constitution to bar Mugabe

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The new Constitution of Zimbabwe may prevent people who have served at least two terms and those above the age of 70 from contesting presidential elections if the draft compiled by the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) is approved.

If the draft is passed at a referendum expected later this year, section 6.4 of the new charter will make it impossible for President Robert Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, to contest.

It will also kill the presidential ambitions of several elderly politicians across the political divide.

A person is disqualified for election as President if he or she has already held office as President for one or more periods, whether continuous or not, amounting to ten years, reads part of section 6.4 in the draft seen by NewsDay yesterday.

But the proposals are likely to meet stiff resistance from Zanu PF, which has made clear its determination to have Mugabe as its sole presidential candidate in the next elections.

At its December conference held in Bulawayo, Zanu PF endorsed the veteran ruler, who turns 88 on February 21, as its candidate in the elections which the party wants held this year.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T Copac co- chairperson, said his party would fight to defend the peoples views.

The people have spoken and our duty is to put what we got from the people into a binding draft that will constitute the laws of the country, Mwonzora said. It is obvious that the select committee, because of their political affiliations, may want to smuggle in some other foreign ideas so as to serve their interests, but we are there to safeguard the interests of the people.

His Zanu PF counterpart Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana also confirmed the draft contained a section limiting presidential terms and setting age limits.

There is no problem with the age limit because even the old constitution stipulated that one has to be (at least) 40 years of age in order to qualify to run for the Presidency, there is nothing new here, Mangwana said.

The proposal is still at draft level and a lot of things will be removed if the select committee finalises it, I cannot comment on whether President Mugabe is out or not.

Mugabes main rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC-T is 59 while MDC leader Welshman Ncube, who also harbours presidential ambitions, is 51 and would be eligible to run.

Zapu leader Dumiso Dabengwa is 73 and would fall victim to the age limit restriction.

Meanwhile, Mangwana and his advisor Godwills Masimirembwa walked out of a meeting of Copac co-chairpersons yesterday afternoon during a discussion on the Bill of Rights.

Zanu PF is reportedly demanding that an exclusive clause be put in place guaranteeing the rights of war veterans.

The MDC parties have, however, called for more consultations on the issue saying such a clause would not be ideal in a draft constitution considering that war veterans would not outlive the charter.

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