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Mugabe Starts Vacation in China as Constitution Deadline Looms

President Robert Mugabe left the country yesterday for the Far East to start his annual vacation, throwing into turmoil plans to conclude the constitution-making process and other key reforms ahead of elections expected in 2013.

The president’s departure comes as the seven-member cabinet and parliamentary committee tasked to break the impasse on constitution-making yesterday resolved to refer outstanding matters to the three political parties in the Government of National Unity.

The outstanding issues lingering from the 2nd All-Stakeholders’ Conference on the new constitution include devolution of power, dual citizenship, reform of the legislature, executive powers, a land commission, as well as security sector and judiciary reforms.

Zanu PF in its annual conference resolutions early this month endorsed Mr. Mugabe’s statements to dissolve Parliament and proclaim a date for the elections if the new constitution was not concluded by Christmas.

Presidential spokesman George Charamba says that President Mugabe can call for elections under the current Lancaster House constitution if a new charter cannot be finalized.

Both formations of the Movement for Democratic Change and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are pushing for a new constitution before elections.

Zanu PF sources, however, say some hardliners in the party are not comfortable with a new constitution and are pushing the President to defy SADC.

So with the constitution making process facing so many difficulties, does the president’s vacation abroad really complicate matters?

Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga says Mr. Mugabe’s absence may slow the process even further at a time when a new constitution would help set the stage for 2013 elections.

Phillan Zamchiya, political analyst and the regional coordinator for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, agrees that Mr. Mugabe should cut his vacation short to deal with the constitution and other pressing domestic issues.

Government sources say Mr. Mugabe and his family will spend at least the next three weeks vacationing in China and Singapore.