Will Zimbabwe vote with blinkers on?

On the streets of Harare you would not think people are going to vote on a document that will shape Zimbabwe’s future.

Only a few hours to go until Saturday’s referendum in Zimbabwe, a newspaper headline in the capital, Harare, reads:”Zimbabweans voting blindly!”

The feeling here is that many ordinary people have not read the draft constitution.

One man clued up on constitutional matters is Lovemore Madhuku. He believes most Zimbabweans are ignorant on the contents of the draft constitution.

He says that over 50 percent of content in the draft constitution is not new and the draft charter is not “very different from the Lancaster House Constitution” signed in 1979 in the United Kingdom.

“The basic problem in this country since independence is concentrating power in the hands of one person, the president,” he said.

“If you look at the draft nothing at all has changed in that regard. You even have additional powers being given to the president, we are opposed on that basic principle.”

According to the draft document the President is not compelled to appear before Parliament and answer questions. He has no limit on the number of ministers he should appoint and he still has a lot of influence in appointing commissioners, ambassadors, security chiefs, the Attorney-General and has the final say over appointment of judges.

But there are some new, and some people say encouraging elements in the draft.

Starting from the next election the country’s new leader would be limited to two five-year terms.

Although this will not be applied retrospectively.

So, the current leader Robert Mugabe, whose been in power since 1980, could technically rule for another two terms.

Difficult to predict

There is a move to have more women in parliament and government.

The land issue will also be included in the constitution.

Any changes to the land issue has to be decided by another referendum.

On the streets of Harare you would not think people are going to vote on a document that will shape Zimbabwe’s future in a few hours.

There are very few posters and a few people wearing ‘vote yes’ caps or T-shirts.

It is difficult to predict how Saturday’s vote will be in terms of numbers at the polling stations.

Political analysts predict a majority yes vote … but will Zimbabweans turn up in numbers or will there be the usual voter apathy we have sometimes seen here?



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