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Zimbabwe Minister Says Overdue Draft Constitution Now 'Ready'

Zimbabwe's long-awaited draft constitution is finally out. Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Eric Matinenga, said the draft charter will be handed over to unity government principals anytime now.

The three leaders - President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara - will study the draft and suggest changes where necessary.

The management committee, comprising negotiators from the three political parties in the unity government, worked through the night until they agreed on the final draft. Each one had to append their signatures to the final copy to avoid backtracking problems in the future.

Matinenga said that all the outstanding issues were resolved but not to everyone’s liking.

Among the thorny issues agreed on was dual citizenship, which would be accorded only to those born in Zimbabwe. Executive terms for the president and others have been limited to two five-year terms.

On devolution, the committee agreed that each of the 10 provinces will have a provincial assembly made up of lawmakers from that area, together with council representatives and individuals.

The provincial assembly will nominate two possible candidates with the President picking the provincial governor from the suggested names.

Law lecturer Alex Magaisa, one of the expert advisers to the parliamentary select committee, says there are some clauses that were in the first draft that appear to have disappeared.

These include allowing the Diaspora vote in the presidential race, and disbanding of the parliamentary public appointments committee, which was supposed to recommend or vet appointments made by the President.

But Magaisa applauds what he says are positive developments, which include the acceptance of devolution as a structure of government and the acceptance of dual citizenship.

He says there is still room for improvement, especially on the issue of presidential powers to ensure the checks that people demanded in the outreach exercise are put in place.

Magaisa says although there will be a lot of comparisons and criticism from critics, the completion of the final draft is a welcome development.

Zimbabwe, he adds, now has a basic starting point to discuss and shape its future.