The referendum on the new constitution will be held on March 16, Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga announced yesterday.
Report by Everson Mushava/Veneranda Langa
Matinenga told journalists in Harare that the date had been endorsed by President Robert Mugabe (Zanu PF), Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (MDC-T) and Industry and Commerce minister Welshman Ncube (MDC).
“I got a message from the President’s Office that the date for the referendum has already been agreed,” Matinenga said “The referendum will be held on March 16
“Any document of this nature must be officially be publicised in a Government Gazette. Our intention is to have the draft gazetted on Friday (tomorrow).
“What it means is that we should not only publish the draft on Friday, but we must also do a proclamation of the President’s signature that day barring any changes to be made on the draft.”
Matinenga said the decision on the referendum date was “political, not technical”.
He said he would lobby for voting days to be increased to two to allow for more people to vote.
“We expect a ‘yes’ vote, and in that case, the draft should be taken to Parliament in order to constitutionalise the Bill,” Matinenga said.
“This will take not less than 30 days. From then, people will be advised on the next stages as we move towards elections.”
Matinenga said his ministry
would tour provinces until March 10 informing people about the contents of the draft constitution.
He said a section in the Public Order and Security Act (Posa) on public meetings would be temporarily suspended to allow the ministry and MPs to conduct meetings with people before the referendum.
Under Posa, a public meeting must be sanctioned by the police.
The referendum had been in doubt because of government’s failure to raise funds for the process that must lead to fresh elections.
Finance minister Tendai Biti yesterday told Parliament that government was still trying to raise funds for the referendum.
Responding to a question by Mbizo MP Settlement Chikwinya (MDC-T), he said “some bit of time” was needed because the country was operating on a cash budget.
“As MPs are aware, the (National) Budget set aside $50 million for both the referendum and the elections, and, as you also know, our budget is a cash budget and we have embarked on a massive fundraising exercise where the Justice and Legal Affairs minister, Patrick Chinamasa, and I requested the United Nations for electoral funding,” he said.
“We are also engaging in certain fundraising exercises and this may include a look at potential fiscal measures I cannot disclose.
“But what I can say as Treasury is that if we have to dispose of our constitutional duties, we have to look for the money — but I think we need some bit of time.”
He confirmed that the government wrote to the United Nations Development Programme on February 4 seeking $250 million for the polls as reported by NewsDay last week.
The new constitution would replace the supreme law adopted at independence in 1980, which has been amended 19 times.
It is a compromise document negotiated by Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC.
Meanwhile, Tsvangirai told civil society groups at a meeting Harare yesterday that he expected harmonised elections to be held in July.