Vote No on Mugabe’s ‘fraud’ constitution, urge Zimbabwe civil rights groups
Civil rights groups have called on Zimbabwean voters to reject a new
constitution, accusing the political elite, including President Robert
Mugabe and former opposition leaders, of imposing a fraud on the people.
Both Mr Mugabe’s Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) of
Morgan Tsvangirai are pressing for a “yes” vote in a referendum on a new
settlement. But respected Zimbabwean rights activist Lovemore Madhuku has
called for a “no” vote calling the constitution a “fraud” that would
reinforce the country’s dyfunctional political system: “The people of
Zimbabwe should vote “No” because the process has not been driven by their
collective wants and aspirations,” he said. “It was politically driven.”
Mr Madhuku and his grassroots movement, the National Constitutional
Association, accuse the unity government of railroading the new settlement,
released only three weeks ago. Only 90,000 copies have been printed in a
country with six million registered voters.
The document sets out term limits for the president which cannot be applied
in retrospect opening the way for Mr Mugabe to stay in power for another two
terms in theory.
With support from both of Zimbabwe’s rival political parties the new
settlement is widely expected to pass, despite the fact that public
consultations were stage managed and often violent, with one man killed at a
town hall meeting.
The run up to the vote has seen further intimidation with Zanu-PF activists
threatening, and in some cases attacking, “no” vote campaigners. Western
monitors have been refused access to the country for the vote which is
widely seen as a rehearsal for full elections expected later this year.
A new constitution was part of the peace deal between Zanu-PF and the MDC
that set up a unity government following the last election in 2008. The
agreement saw Mr Tsvangirai, a long-time critic of Mr Mugabe, become prime
minister while several ministries, including finance were given to MDC
members. At the last presidential Mr Tsvangirai took a first round lead over
his veteran rival but withdrew from a run-off after a brutal campaign of
violence against his supporters.
The only leader Zimbabwe has known since independence from Britain in 1979,
Mr Mugabe was widely feted in his first decade in office for broadening
education and overseeing economic expansion. Since 2000 he oversaw a
disastrous and violent land invasion campaign which hobbled the country and
turned Zimbabwe into a pariah state with its former allies in the West.
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