With only a day left before Zimbabweans decide to adopt or reject a draft constitution produced by the parliamentary select committee, Supreme Court judge Justice Rita Makarau was sworn in Friday by President Robert Mugabe at State House as the substantive chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).
Makarau’s swearing in dealt a severe blow to urgent Supreme Court applications filed by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) seeking to stop the Saturday constitutional referendum on the basis that the vote was going to be presided over by an unqualified person.
Makarau takes over from Joyce Kazembe, who was acting chairperson until Friday. Kazembe’s credentials to lead the referendum were under the spotlight but Mr. Mugabe moved swiftly to legitimise Saturday’s vote following the court challenges.
The Supreme Court said the matter brought before it by the NCA will be heard as an ordinary case following the swearing in of Makarau while it dismissed for lack of merit the PTUZ application to stop the referendum on the basis that Zimbabweans were given little time to debate the draft constitution.
Still in the courts, the High Court has ordered ZEC to accredit ZimRights to observe the constitutional referendum after the electoral body had refused to do so saying the rights organization was under police investigations.
Meanwhile, NCA chairman Lovemore Madhuku on Friday made his last pitch urging Zimbabweans to vote against the draft constitution in their large numbers.
Mr. Madhuku is confident that the “no” vote will carry the day, adding that the NCA will stop campaigning after the last ballot is cast Saturday.
MDC99 leader, Job Sikhala, who is campaigning for the no vote, also said there was nothing positive for ordinary Zimbabweans in the draft charter.
Youth Minister Saviour Kasukuwere, who addressed a youth rally at the Africa Unity Square together with Zanu-PF COPAC co-chairman Paul Mangwana and Jessie Majome of MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, urged youths to vote “yes” Saturday saying a lot is in store for them in the draft charter.
Mr. Tsvangirai told church leaders that if elected president of Zimbabwe, he will amend the draft constitution if it is adopted by citizens as the country’s supreme law.
Mr. Tsvangirai said this was a transitional document and Zimbabweans should not expect it to be perfect.
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights board member, Mordecai Mahlangu told a news conference that the constitution-making process rendered secondary other key reforms and processes outlined in the global political agreement of power-sharing.
Meanwhile, the MDC formation of Mr. Tsvangirai says eight of its members were assaulted in Harare’s Mbare high density suburb by suspected Zanu-PF supporters while sticking up “yes” vote posters ahead of the constitutional referendum set for tomorrow.
Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations in the unity government are campaigning for a “yes” vote while opposition parties are rejecting the draft constitution.