NATIONAL Constitutional Assembly (NCA) chairman Lovemore Madhuku yesterday filed an urgent chamber application seeking to stop the referendum scheduled for March 16.
Report by Charles Laiton
The application by Madhuku followed a recent announcement by the three political leaders in the coalition government that they had agreed on the final version of the draft constitution.
The agreement was followed by the referendum date proclamation by the President.
Madhuku argues that the time set by President Robert Mugabe for the referendum was grossly inadequate in light of the importance and complexity of the opinion being sought from voters.
“At the same time of setting of the date, (a) no official copy had been distributed, (b) there were no translated versions of the draft constitution and (c) no simplified versions existed and this is still the position at the time of this application,” Madhuku said.
He said while the President had the power under the Referendum Act to decide to ascertain the view of voters on certain issues and to set dates for a referendum, he could not act arbitrarily.
“The advice received by NCA is to the effect that the President must act reasonably and anything grossly unreasonable or irrational would, for that reason alone be ultra-vires the Referendum Act,” Madhuku said.
“The NCA is urgently seeking the intervention of this honourable court to set aside the March 16 date and order the President to give voters not less than two months from the date of its proclamation, such time will enable voters to share the few copies being distributed and more importantly to listen to different opinions on the issues at stake.”
Madhuku further said there was need for the translation of the draft constitution for a shorter version, the braille version and, thereafter, adequate time to read it, but in the present case the translations were yet to be done.
The matter is yet to be allocated a judge.