WASHINGTON DC —
Zimbabwe's upper house of parliament has approved a draft constitution endorsed in a March referendum, paving the way for new elections to be held sometime this year.
But the Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 20 Bill goes back to the lower house so lawmakers can address issues raised by the senate before President Robert Mugabe can sign the draft charter into the country's supreme law.
All senators present voted in favour of the draft, which was put before them by Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga.
Senate leader Edna Madzongwe applauded the senators for coming out in full force to support the bill.
Traditional leaders and all the senators who debated on the bill hailed Zimbabwe for coming up with its own constitution after years of being ruled under the Lancaster House Constitution.
But Matinenga cautioned that the new constitution, once in effect, can only make a difference in ordinary people’s lives if it is respected.
Zanu-PF chairman, Senator Simon Khaya Moyo, said the new constitution will address problems that were facing the country and caused by the Lancaster House Constitution.
Senator Sekai Holland of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai hailed the constitution for uplifting Zimbabwean women, putting them in a position they have never been in before.
Education Minister David Coltart, while applauding Zimbabweans for coming up with their own home-grown constitution, said he was unhappy the charter does not empower parliament like in other countries.
Speaking on behalf of traditional leaders was Chief Enos Musarurwa of Mashonaland East, who said once the constitution is signed into the law, the president should proclaim election dates to move the nation forward.
The lower house of parliament will sit again tomorrow to look at issues raised by the senate before it goes to President Mugabe for his signature.
The charter takes away the president's immunity after leaving office, bolsters the power of the courts and sets up a peace and reconciliation commission tasked with post-conflict, justice and healing. It also limits a president's tenure to two five-year terms, curtails presidential powers and abolishes the post of prime minister.