President Robert Mugabe — who has ruled Zimbabwe since independence nearly 33 years ago — may stay in power for another decade if he is re-elected, according to the new draft constitution.
Report by AFP/Wisdom Mdzungairi in Ethiopia
The new basic law would limit presidential terms to 10 years and strip away presidential immunity.
But it is not retroactive and so would grant Mugabe — who turns 89 in February — the right to run again in presidential polls.
The draft constitution, which now needs to be voted on by Parliament and Zimbabweans, forms the main pillar of reforms needed to hold a new vote after deadly 2008 elections.
“The draft constitution will go to Parliament early February and it will go to a referendum,” Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said.
Zimbabwe’s unity government of long-ruling Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed to the text two weeks ago after disagreements and violence had delayed the constitutional process in the last two years.
There was no information on the much-awaited date when Zimbabweans will vote on the draft charter.
“The referendum date is something that is going to be agreed in consultation with the principals (Mugabe and Tsvangirai),” said Matinenga.
Tsvangirai pulled out of the presidential runoff election in 2008, citing the killing of around 300 supporters.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai were then forced into a power-sharing government a year later.
Their relations have been characterised by bickering and counter-accusations of violence.
The draft constitution retains the death penalty although it says “a law may permit the death penalty to be imposed only on a person convicted of murder committed in aggravating circumstances”.
It prohibits the death penalty for women and people under 21 years and over 70.
In a clear banning of gay or lesbian rights, the draft charter says ”persons of the same sex are prohibited from marrying each other”.
The MDC-T party has said it will support the draft charter.
Mugabe has insisted on new presidential elections in March, while Tsvangirai wants reforms first to allow for fair and violence-free polls.
Meanwhile, African Union (AU) leaders yesterday urged Mugabe to implement outstanding provisions of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) before elections could be held.
Although Zimbabwe was not on the agenda, the call by the AU leaders followed a debate by Sadc Heads of State and Government on Sunday on the sidelines of the 20th Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly underway in Ethiopia.
Zimbabwe, Madagascar and the deteriorating situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo were debated during an AU Assembly closed-door session.
The leaders also debated the general state of peace and security in Africa.
Mozambican Foreign Affairs minister Oldemiro Baloi, who represented President Armando Guebuza, chaired the Sadc Heads of States and Government meeting while Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Dessalegn chaired the AU Assembly.
In an interview, Sadc executive secretary Tomaz Salomao confirmed both meetings, saying Mugabe had been told that the GPA partners should fulfil important aspects of the roadmap.
Salomao said the Sadc facilitator to the Zimbabwe crisis South African President Jacob Zuma had briefed leaders on the Sadc Troika meeting held on January 10-11 in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
“Sadc Heads of State and Government had a full meeting where President Zuma briefed them on the goings-on in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and DRC,” he said.
“President Zuma was tasked to meet the Zimbabwean political leaders with regards to fulfilling the GPA provisions.
“We are encouraged by events of the last weeks . . . We are in the right direction.
“However, it should be pointed out that the provisions of the roadmap relating to the referendum, inclusive and consensual nature of the transitional process, confidence-building and national reconciliation, media freedoms . . . are still to be implemented,” Salamao added.
“Hence, we will do things step by step. These have to be fulfilled before a general election.
“In that same breath, the parties were told to adhere to the GPA provisions.
“Obviously, the constitution is a big success, a huge encouragement, for us.
“But again, general elections will be announced after parties agree to the outstanding issues.
“President Mugabe indicated that the electoral body (Zimbabwe Electoral Commission) should announce rules of engagement on the referendum in the not-too-distant future, including the date, once the parties meet.”
He added Zuma was tasked to meet the GPA partners again to iron out any differences and/or bottlenecks to bring closure to the crisis.