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Zimbabwe Referendum Provisionally Set For March

Zimbabwe’s Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga has announced that the country’s much anticipated constitutional referendum has been tentatively set for March 16th.

President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara are said to have agreed on the date.

Mr. Mugabe will proclaim the date in a government gazette this Friday. Sources told VOA that the principals have also agreed that a general election will be held in July.

Meanwhile, ministers from the three parties in the government of national unity told Voice of America that they were never consulted about the date. Even officials from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), said they were not consulted.

Even with a date set, the question remains of how the country can fund the referendum. ZEC has often complained that it cannot roll out the vote on the draft consitution without financial support.

Finance Minsiter Tendai Biti has told parliament that it will take time to secure funding from the United Nations Development Program, as the grant process is lengthy.

Zimbabwe requested about US$225 million from the UNDP earlier this month, but Biti told VOA that there are no guarantees the money will be available.

The other GNU principal, Industry Minister Welshman Ncube of the other MDC formation was apparently not consulted.

Priscilla Misihairambwi Mushonga, secretary general of the MDC-Ncube formation confirmed that her boss was not asked about the date nor was the issue tabled in cabinet.
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Lovemore Madhuku, National Constitutional Assembly chairman, said he will take the matter to court, saying Zimbabweans need more time to weigh the mattter of a new constitution.
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