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Zimbabwe Watchdog Says Constitutional Referendum 'Not Practical' by May

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

President Robert Mugabe threatened last week to abandon the new constitution effort and call elections under the current Lancaster House constitution if the new charter is not finished by next month

Demands by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe for completion of constitutional reforms by May are not practical, the independent group Veritas said Tuesday, warning that elections this year will likely stir political violence.

The watchdog said Mr. Mugabe’s timetable was unreasonable as it did not consider legal requirements, including an all-stakeholders conference, the draft's ratification by parliament and its circulation in all local languages before it is put to a referendum.

Achieving all this in one month is not possible, especially when inclusive government partners are still wrangling over what to include in the new charter, Veritas said.

It also warned that any election without adequate reforms that promote a free and fair vote “will be a sham in the eyes of the region and the world.”

Mr. Mugabe threatened last week to abandon efforts to write a new constitution for the country and call elections under the current Lancaster House constitution if the new charter is not finished by next month.

But Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Welshman Ncube, leader of the smaller MDC wing, have insisted that Mr. Mugabe can not unilaterally call a vote without consulting them.

Commentator Liberty Bhebhe opined that there is a lot still at stake before a new draft constitution can be put to a referendum.

"It becomes impractical to think that all these things can be done in one month," Bhebhe told VOA. "We still have a lot of time until those things can be finalized."

But another political analyst Psychology Maziwisa disagreed, saying a referendum is possible by next month.

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