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Zimbabwe's Draft Constitution Kills Death Penalty - But Only for Women

Zimbabwe’s new draft constitution has abolished the death sentence for women and those under the age of 21 and above 70 years, but pro-life activists say it does not go far enough.

Also, some legal experts and human rights groups worry the move may be used to protect senior Zanu PF officials accused of gross rights abuses in the previous elections.

The alleged violations have seen President Robert Mugabe and some 200 members of his inner circle being hit with travel and financial sanctions by the U.S. and the European Union.

Rights groups pushing for the total removal of the death penalty, including Amnesty International say the charter, which will be adopted if approved in a referendum latter this year - falls short.

Among other notable aspects, the new charter adopts the American and Malawian system where a presidential candidate has a running mate who automatically takes over if the head of state is incapacitated or unable to continue.

It also restores the right to vote for so-called aliens or Zimbabweans with one foreign parent, who for long have been disenfranchised and denied passports.

Parliamentary and Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told VOA that he has written to the cabinet secretary informing him that the draft is complete and ready for submission to unity government principals and the cabinet.

The charter, to replace the current constitution that has been amended 19 times, will also be presented before an All-Stakeholders Conference in the next few weeks before going for a national referendum.

Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa confirmed negotiators from the three unity parties appended their signatures to the draft as a sign of approval, adding they now wait to hear from the principals.

The three co-chairpersons of the parliamentary panel writing the new charter also met with other committee members in Harare Thursday to officially hand over the document.

Co-chairman Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana of Zanu PF told VOA the process is now complete and his party will call for a special politburo session next week to discuss the constitutional draft.

Douglas Mwonzora, Copac co-chair representing the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the document was final, adding no one in the community wants to go back to political bickering over the content.