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Zimbabwe Ruling Party Rams Through Constitutional Amendments

Zimbabwe’s ruling party on Tuesday used the two-thirds majority it claimed in March general elections to pass legislation for constitutional amendments that are opposed by the political opposition and civil society groups as injurious to civil liberties.

Among other changes, the amendments provided for in the bill will eliminate the right of landowners whose farms have been seized under Zimbabwe’s land reform program to challenge seizures in the court system, give the state the right to restrict foreign travel deemed a threat to security, and disenfranchise voters of foreign descent.

Correspondent Thomas Chiripasi of VOA’s Studio 7 for Zimbabwe covered the final debate and vote in the Harare parliament and filed this report.

Spokesman Paul Themba Nyathi of the Movement for Democratic Change said the new amendments, which will take effect whenever President Robert Mugabe signs them into law, signaled that Zimbabwe has “slipped into full-fledged tyranny” and have further isolated the country in the world community.

He said the MDC would keep fighting “generalized tyranny” regardless of this or other “draconian” legislation.

Mr. Nyathi spoke with Studio 7 reporter Chris Gande from Bulawayo.

The passage of the amendment legislation came as no surprise to Lovemore Madhuku, the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a nongovernmental organization which seeks a total rewrite of the country’s constitution.

There was little the opposition could do to block the legislation, though mass public demonstrations might have had some impact, he said, but for now the ruling party is determined to exercise its parliamentary supermajority to the fullest.

Mr. Madhuku spoke with Studio 7 reporter Ndimyake Mwakalyele from Harare.

Though the passage of the a controversial amendment bill looked to some like defiance of international opinion by Mr. Mugabe’s government and ruling party, one regional analyst says the development won’t change much in foreign policy.

Ross Herbert, head of a project on the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, or NEPAD, and African governance at the South African Institute of International Affairs, said Mr. Mugabe’s actions show his disregard of world opinion.

Ndimyake Mwakalyele asked Mr. Herbert if such developments might not lead South Africa to break off its ongoing negotiations with the Zimbabwean government as to the loan of several hundred million dollars Harare seeks to pay down debt service arrears to the International Monetary Fund and address critical shortages of food and fuel.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...