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Draft Constitution Gets Green Light

The unity government principals announced they have resolved the outstanding issues over the draft of the revised constitution, paving the way for a referendum on the document.

Speaking at the same State House press conference where he announced the death of Vice President John Nkomo, President Robert Mugabe on Thursday told reporters that he and the other leaders of the parties in the unity government have agreed on the way forward, after receiving a report from the cabinet committee on the constitution-making process and COPAC.

President Mugabe said the differences over key sections of the draft charter had been worked out. This position was confirmed by Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) leader, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara said there were many reasons that brought the political leaders together Thursday.

Leader of the other MDC formation, Industry Minister Welshman Ncube, also attended the meeting as head of his party and said all that is left now is to write up the final draft.

Although the leaders told reporters that they have agreed on all the sticking issues in the constitution-making process, they did not announce when the referendum will be held. More importantly, they did not give details of how they resolved the disputes.
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In a separate, written statement, Prime Minister Tsvangirai described the resolution of issues in the draft constitution as “a defining moment” in Zimbabwe’s history.

While he also did not offer specifics in the draft, he called the new document a “social contract between the government and the people” that “responds to [the people’s] demands for transperency, accountability, and good governance.”

For details on what the principals agreed to regarding the new constitution, VOA Studio 7 reached out to officials in the three political parties.

COPAC chairman Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana with Zanu PF, Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga with MDC-T (svangirai) and MDC-N(cube) Secretary General Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga confirmed their areas of agreement on the draft.

On the question of devolution, the parties agreed to do away with provincial governors appointed by the president. Instead, there will be a provincial chairman appointed by the party with the highest number of votes in the province. Because there was lack of a clear definition of what devolution is, the draft will add a lengthy preamble to explain it.

There were reportedly some who feared that devolution could allow provinces to secede. The preamble will clarify that devolution is the statutory granting of powers from the central government to governments at the regional, or even local, level.

Devolution can focus primarily on financial functions or even allow provinces to draft and pass legislation. How exactly devolution will look in Zimbabwe will depend on what is written in the forthcoming preamble and legislation concerning devolution that may come if the new draft is approved in a referendum.

Dual Citizenship
Parliament has been empowered to deal with the issue through legislation. In other words, the draft constitution will not stake out a position on the issue.

Running Mates
American-style presidential running mates, candidates for vice president who would assume power in the event that the president dies or is incapacitated, will be introduced for the presidential election in 2023. Until then, the party of whoever is president will determine the successor for the remainder of the president’s term.

Finally, the attorney-general's office will be split into two functions. One will be a prosecuting authority and the other will be a legal advisor to the government.