PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe yesterday made a volte face on the next general elections saying they would be held under a new constitution, but insisted they would take place in March next year.
Report by Everson Mushava, Wonai Masvingise
Mugabe, who has in the past threatened an election with or without the new governance charter, seemed to have backed down on his earlier threats when he officially opened the Fifth Session of the 7th Parliament in Harare.
The watershed elections would end the wobbly four-year-old coalition government.
The 88-year-old veteran leader commended Copac for the work it has done so far towards the completion of a new constitution, saying the principals were now coming in to ensure a speedy conclusion to the process.
Mugabe said principals would “set up an appropriate mechanism to build the required consensus” on the constitution, mindful of the major objective to hold the next harmonised elections in “March 2013 under the new constitution”.
“The (Copac) select committee should work frantically to produce a report of the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference summarising the views expressed by stakeholders, in particular the divergent views and submit the report to the principals in the government,” he said.
“Should the people express their affirmation of the draft constitution, then Parliament would be asked to pass it as the fundamental law of our country. Elections will then become a necessity sequel.”
The President last week triggered an outcry when he announced that principals — Mugabe, MDC-T leader Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, MDC’s Welshman Ncube and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara — have veto power on the constitution-making process when he officially opened the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference.
However, despite those concerns, Mugabe has maintained the remaining stages would be completed by the coalition partners, while Parliament would be asked to endorse the charter into a new law.
“There is now need for the government to assume the management of the process leading to the referendum,” he said.
Mugabe said the Fifth Session of the 7th parliament will be a bridging one as the country drew closer to ending the inclusive government and would, therefore, have an important role to conclude several pending Bills.
The Bills to be tabled include the Attorney-General (AG)’s Amendment Bill that would usher autonomy to the AG’s Office and the Constituency Development Fund Bill that seeks to correct irregularities detected by a parliamentary audit.
The session, Mugabe said, would also look into the Zimbabwe Investment Bill which seeks to enhance the country’s competitiveness as an investment destination and the Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill which would seek to facilitate increased mineral production.
Mugabe called for peace in the forthcoming elections and called on the police, “known for their professionalism”, to play their role to ensure that the forthcoming elections would be free and fair.
He also challenged the media to promote peace.
Unlike last year when suspected Zanu PF supporters attacked MPs and journalists during the Presidential address to Parliament at the official opening of the fourth session, yesterday’s official opening was generally peaceful.
An hour before the official opening, groups of Zanu PF activists in party regalia disturbed the flow of traffic around the central business district as they moved around in kombis singing and chanting party slogans.
They proceeded to Africa Unity Square, and joined a group of women, singing songs of praise for Mugabe.