Tepid welcome for draft Zimbabwean constitution | Africa | DW | 23.07.2012
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Tepid welcome for draft Zimbabwean constitution

Zimbabwean lawmakers have just finalized a new constitution, but analysts warn it is flawed. Meanwhile the EU has made a conditional promise to lift most of the sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe.

The completion of the draft constitution is the first concrete step towards new elections in Zimbabwe since President Robert Mugabe was forced into a unity government with his rival Morgan Tsvangirai in 2008.

The draft curtails presidential powers and imposes a two term limit of 10 years. That limit would start with the adoption of the charter so 88-year-old Mugabe could spend another decade in office, even though he has ruled Zimbabwe since independence from Britain in 1980.

However the draft would also strip the president of immunity from prosecution once he leaves office, a major concern for Mugabe who could face charges over human rights abuses.

Nevanji Madanhire, editor of the privately owned Standard newspaper, says the new constitution was to have been a correction of "all that has gone wrong with our country. But the amount of compromise the latest draft shows means the country is ready to continue with the same."

Despite long debate on allowing same-sex marriage and ending capital punishment, the draft defines marriage as between a man and a woman and upholds the death penalty, though not for women or anyone over the age of 70.

It allows for citizenship by birth, descent or registration, but does not permit dual citizenship.

Days of the "strong man" are gone

The document also provides for compensation for white farmers who were forced off their land under Mugabe's controversial land reforms and also protects the property rights of new farmers.

Eric Matinenga, a minister from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change says the draft recognizes that the days are gone when governance was entrusted in the hand of the "strong man."

But Lovemore Madhuku, a legal expert from the University of Zimbabwe said the draft "retained an executive president."

The draft does help clarify Zimbabwe's vague succession rules in the event that a president resigns, dies or becomes incapacitated. Under the new constitution, the first of the country's two vice presidents would take over.

Zimbabwe war veterans block white-owned in Centenary district, north of Harare.

The draft constituion promises compensation for white farmers who were forced off their land

Three years of work have gone into the draft constitution, which will be put to a public conference at the end of August and to a referendum at a date which has yet to be announced.

DW's correspondent in Harare, Columbus Mavhunga, says the draft constitution was supposed to have been put to a referendum last July. "There are those who argue," he says, "that only the views of the political parties were considered when drafting the new constitution."

Lifting sanctions

Meanwhile the European Union said on Monday a "peaceful and credible" referendum on a new constitution would "justify" the lifting of EU sanctions against Zimbabwe.

Children collecting stagnant water for use at home in Glen View, Harare, Zimbabwe.

EU ministers are set to resume aid to Zimbabwe once a referendum has been organised

The conditional suspension of sanctions was proposed by Britain, the former colonial power in what is now Zimbabwe, and was described by British Foreign Secretary William Hague as "an important step-change in the EU's approach to Zimbabwe."

A statement from the 27 EU foreign ministers said individual sanctions against most of the 112 Zimbabweans, listed in an asset freeze and travel ban, would be lifted. But an EU official told AFP there was no question of lifting sanctions against "Mugabe or anyone involved in continued abused of human rights."

EU ministers also agreed in principle to resume direct aid to Zimbabwe's government after a ten year suspension.

Zimbabwe Primer Minister Morgan Tsvangirai

Morgan Tsvangirai: "Ready to re-engage"

In Harare, a spokesman for Mugabe's ZANU-PF party said of the Brussels decision. "We don't think that's the way to do it. We are saying all sanctions should go."

On a visit to Australia, prime minister Tsvangirai said Zimbabwe was ready to re-engage with the global community after "a very dark and unfortunate history."

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