Mugabe not off the hook

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The Constitution Select Committee (Copac) has retained a clause in the draft constitution reportedly barring candidates that have already served two terms from taking part in future polls.

Clause 642 is one of the provisions that have unsettled Zanu PF because it would see its candidate President Robert Mugabe becoming ineligible for polls expected later this year.

Copac had been forced to revise clauses dealing with presidential term limits and age restrictions for candidates but Clause 642 was reportedly retained.

Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T Copac co-chairperson, said contrary to Zanu PF claims that the draft had been overhauled to accommodate Mugabe, the provision on presidential term limits remained untouched.

We want to assure Zimbabweans that we have retained Clause 642 that deals with the disqualification of a presidential candidate who has served two five-year terms that such a person cannot stand again, he told NewsDay.

We have retained it and even made it much clearer so that it is not open to abuse because people have misconceptions that the clause was made with President Mugabe in mind.

Mugabe accused his rivals in the inclusive government of sponsoring the clauses barring him from standing in future elections because they were afraid of losing to him.

Zanu PF Copac co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana told State media the draft had been reworked because the drafters had ignored instructions.

But Mwonzora described the statements as Zanu PF propaganda meant to derail the constitution-making process.

We are committed to what people said and whether the clause disqualifies Mugabe or not is not the issue to argue about, he said. We are not writing a constitution to despise Mugabe and his allegations on his birthday that the MDC was afraid of him and wanted such a clause in the constitution to bar him from contesting are not true.

As the MDC, we view Mugabe as the cheapest opponent as we have beaten him before and can beat him anytime.

Mugabe trailed Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the first round of the 2008 presidential election before winning the run-off unchallenged. Tsvangirai pulled out citing violence against his supporters. Mangwana in an interview with NewsDay insisted the clause would not affect Mugabe because the supreme law does not apply in retrospect.

That is not entirely true, he said. What this clause is saying is not going to affect someone who has been President before the new constitution comes into law.

Strenuous efforts to contact MDC Copac co-chairperson Edward Mkhosi were fruitless yesterday. Mugabe has been in power since independence in 1980 first as Prime Minister and then as Executive President after an amendment to the Constitution.

Zanu PF has already endorsed him as its presidential candidate and in interviews ahead of his birthday he told State media he was finding it hard to groom a successor within his party.

Meanwhile, the three governing parties are reportedly deadlocked on a clause on the number of Vice-Presidents the country should have. Zanu PFs structures have a provision for two VPs, but other parties are arguing that maintaining the two posts does not make economic sense.

Other unresolved issues include the death penalty where Zanu PF is advocating for capital punishment for Zimbabweans calling for sanctions against the country. The partys supporters during the outreach programme also called for the death penalty for journalists who denigrate the President.

There is also no agreement on the issue of devolution of power, provincial governors, dual citizenship and the land issue.