Zimbabwe draft constitution hits deadlock | Africa | DW | 29.08.2012
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Zimbabwe draft constitution hits deadlock

SADC-appointed mediator, South African leader Jacob Zuma, has dispatched a team to Harare to find a breakthrough after Zimbabwe's main political parties fail to agree on a draft constitution.

Regional leaders from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are insisting there must be a new constitution if Zimbabwe's next elections are to be free and fair. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai announced Tuesday August 28 that the 15-nation bloc was the only way out of the deadlock.

A SADC team appointed by South African President Zuma will be in Harare for at least two days to try and ensure the process of formulating a new constitution for Zimbabwe remains on course.

Zuma's mission is to unlock the stalemate over democratic reforms in the Zimbabwean constitution and press for the implementation of other reforms set down in the power-sharing agreement before elections can be held by mid-2013.

Zuma's intervention also follows the rejection by the MDC party, led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, of a draft constitution drawn up by President Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF party, which differs from the one earlier agreed on by all parties in the coalition government.

South African President Jacob Zuma (Photo: STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN/AFP/GettyImages)

Jacob Zuma has dispatched a team to Zimbabwe to unblock the impasse on the draft constitution

Prime Minister Tsvangirai told journalists in Harare on Tuesday that President Mugabe had all but ditched the negotiated earlier draft and he expected SADC leaders to find common ground.

"The only arbiter which is available is SADC. We can't even discuss the issue. So SADC is quite aware of this delicate moment to unlock the dispute," said Tsvangirai.

The disagreements

Tsvangirai has accused Mugabe's party of completely rewriting the draft. “This is a total rejection of the negotiated draft. It is a whole re-written document with all proposals we agreed on thrown out of the window. So it is a futile exercise to re-open negotiations," he said.

Talking to DW, political analyst Pedzai Ruhanya said SADC negotiators will have a hard time to bring together both Tsvangirai's MDC party and Mugabe's ZANU- PF party but he expects some form of compromise to emerge.

"The MDC formations have no capacity to completely reject what Mugabe wants. I think there is going to be some form of negotiations to ensure that somehow Mugabe's issues are accommodated," Pedzai said.

A Zimbabwean voter's finger being dipped in purple dye to prove that she has voted EPA/STR +++(c) dpa

A new consitution is key before fresh elections are held

Under the terms of the coalition, a referendum on a reformed constitution must be held before fresh elections. Mugabe's party wants the sweeping powers it has held since independence in 1980 restored in the draft constitution.

Mugabe's party has also said the president can call elections with or without a new constitution.

Tsvangirai said such a move would be in breach of the coalition agreement crafted by SADC leaders of the Southern African Development Community, the 15-nation economic and political bloc, and would be illegal under the existing constitution.

Mugabe's demands

Mugabe's key issues include rejection of the U.S. style of having running mates in elections that would result in the mate taking over if a president dies.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (Photo:Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP/dapd)

Mugabe set conditions before ZANU-PF can endorse the draft constitution

His Zanu-PF also wants the death penalty upheld in the new constitution as well as forbid dual citizenship and homosexual rights which the government-appointed committee's draft had advocated.

A new constitution is one of the reforms regional leaders want to see in Zimbabwe as a way of strengthening political stability. The drafting of a new constitution is now over a year behind schedule.

It was supposed to have been completed by July 2011. The latest bickering means more delays. Time is running out, which makes it even more urgent for Zuma's team to break the deadlock.

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