Thu Dec 08 16:21:21 CAT 2016

Draft constitution a big step forward for Zimbabwe

The Times Editorial | 2012-07-30 00:11:24.0

The Times Editorial: In a few short months negotiations among the rival political parties in Zimbabwe's shaky coalition government have made impressive progress.

So much so that the protracted, politically fraught constitution-making process has at last yielded results.

A draft constitution has been handed to Zanu-PF and the two factions of the Movement for Democratic Change for comment and suggestions for amendments.

Both factions of the MDC said they accepted the charter and called for it to be put to a referendum.

Though President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF has said it will make its position known on Wednesday, the pro-democracy website newzimbabwe.com yesterday quoted Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa as saying the party's politburo had endorsed ''about 97%" of the provisions but would propose amendments to "a few key clauses".

Though some analysts have described the draft constitution as a deeply flawed compromise, it might be Zimbabwe's best shot at credible elections next year and, ultimately - after 32 years of Mugabe rule, endless political bickering and blood-letting - a genuine, stable democracy.

It would curtail presidential powers and impose a two-term limit of 10 years, and provides for some, albeit limited, devolution of powers. A potential stumbling block for Mugabe is that it would strip a former president of immunity from prosecution.

In a blow to democrats, it maintains the death penalty - except for women and people over 70 - and does not provide for same-sex marriage.

But it does envisage compensation for farmers who were stripped of their land under Mugabe and protects the property rights of emerging farmers.

Obviously, other key reforms have to be carried out before Zimbabweans can go to the polls - not least bringing the partisan security forces to heel.

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