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Zimbabwe Civil Groups Lead Draft Constitution Debate

Zimbabwe's three parties in the unity government are campaigning for a 'yes' vote in the forthcoming constitutional referendum
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition has kick-started public debates on the draft constitution with a meeting in Harare Wednesday night, where opposing views on the draft charter emerged.

Presenting their positions at a public meeting, representatives of the political parties in the unity government all agreed that Zimbabweans should vote “Yes” in the March 16 referendum. What they did not agree on was why they should vote "Yes."

MDC-T spokesman and COPAC co-chairperson, Douglas Mwonzora, urged Zimbabweans to adopt the draft because "it limits the president to a maximum of two terms in office, while the current constitution allows the Head of State to stand for election as many times as he or she likes".

Qhubani Moyo, organizing secretary of Industry Minister Welshman Ncube's formation of the MDC told the gathering that the strengthening of local government, described as devolution in Chapter 14 of the draft charter, was “an incremental gain” for many Zimbabweans.

Zanu PF’s representative at the meeting, blogger and Indigenization Ministry advisor Psychology Maziwisa, said Zimbabweans should vote for the draft because it retains the strong executive powers of the presidency.

Of course, not everyone at the meeting urged a "Yes" vote. MDC 99 president Job Sikhala urged citizens to reject the draft constitution on March 16.

A "No" vote was also supported by the Zimbabwe chapter of the International Socialist Organization.

ISO coordinator Munyaradzi Gwisai said if adopted, the draft constitution would unnecessarily increase the size and power of the government.
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Clever Bere, representing the National Constitutional Assembly, said his organization opposed the way the draft was finalized by the nation's political chiefs and not by the grassroots.

With just a few weeks to go to March 16, former finance minister and leader of Mavambo Kusile Dawn, Simba Makoni, said his party is undecided on the draft constitution.

Mr. Makoni said whether the document is good or bad, if it becomes the law he urged those in authority to adhere to all provisions of the constitution.

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, organizers of the meeting, said it will organize more debates in other parts of the country to help Zimbabweans learn about the draft constitution before the referendum.

Meanwhile, the parliamentary select committee responsible for the draft charter, COPAC, has invited civil society organizations to work with it in its vote "Yes" campaign.

Co-chairman Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana of Zanu PF said his committee will work with organizations that support the draft document.
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