[diggers350] Zimbabwe Voting on Land Confiscation

Tony Gosling tony at gaia.org
Sun Feb 13 16:06:20 GMT 2000

Zimbabwe opposition expect bigger vote on Sunday
By Cris Chinaka 

HARARE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Zimbabwe's opposition expect a bigger voter
turnout on Sunday, the second day of a two-day referendum on a
controversial draft constitution they say is designed to entrench President
Robert Mugabe's rule. 
The draft also gives Mugabe's 20-year-old government power to confiscate
white farms to resettle black peasants. 
The referendum was hit by apathy and Zimbabwe's economic crisis on the
first day of voting. Many potential voters spent the day in long queues
struggling for either fuel, transport or the services of a grinding mill. 
Election Directorate chairman Mariyawanda Nzuwah confirmed at a news
conference the turnout had been low but statistics were not immediately
Just over five million of Zimbabwe's 12.5 million people are eligible to
vote in the referendum. 
"We expect more people to come out to vote on the last day. Sunday is a
much freer day for many people and we have not stopped our campaign to get
a 'NO' vote against this daft draft constitution," said Lovemore Madhuku,
deputy chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, a coalition of
civic and opposition groups campaigning against the draft document. 
"There is no room for apathy in this," he said. 
Political analysts expect the referendum to be a litmus test for a general
election in April that is likely to present Mugabe with his toughest
opposition challenge since independence from Britain 20 years ago. 
Mugabe told state media he was confident he would win the constitutional
contest, saying the draft was an expression of national sovereignty as it
replaced a constitution -- although amended several times -- largely
produced by Britain on the eve of Zimbabwe's independence. 
He said the proposed new constitution's provisions on land -- which his
critics say severely undermine property rights and foreign investment
prospects -- would help the country's resolve some of its economic problems. 
Mugabe's ZANU-PF movement has been widely blamed for Zimbabwe's worst
economic crisis in decades, whose latest dramatic signs include acute
foreign currency and fuel shortages. 
The referendum vote began peacefully, with no repeat of skirmishes over the
past two weeks between supporters of the ruling party and the opposition
Movement for Democratic Change. 
The government and its supporters say the draft constitution is truly
democratic and they deny charges that it concentrates power in Mugabe's
The NCA says Zimbabweans must reject it because it ignored public demands
to abolish the post of executive state president, introduce independent
commissions to balance the state's power and bringing in proportional
The referendum results are expected on Monday. 

HARARE, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Following are basic facts and arguments around a
draft constitution which President Robert Mugabe's opponents say Zimbabwe
must reject in a two-day referendum ending on Sunday. They say it gives
Mugabe too much power and does not reflect public demands for comprehensive
Eligible voters.....five million. 
Polls open:.........0700 (0500 GMT) - 1900 (1700 GMT) 
1. Campaign for "Yes" vote is led by Mugabe's ruling ZANU-PF movement and
government-sponsored Constitutional Commission which drafted the
controversial document. 
2. Campaign for "No" vote is being co-ordinated by the National
Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a coalition of civic and opposition groups,
including the major churches, unions, professional and student
representative bodies. 
** Supporters say the nation must rally behind the document because it is
an expression of freedom, a historic opportunity to make a clean break with
the colonial past and replace the independence constitution brokered by
Britain in 1979. 
** They argue the draft contains a clear separation of powers between the
executive state president, the prime minister, parliament and the judiciary. 
** They emphasise the draft gives the government unquestionable authority
to seize land from white commercial farmers to resettle blacks without
obligation to pay compensation if former colonial power Britain does not
provide the money. 
** Opponents say the draft constitution entrenches Mugabe and his ZANU-PF
movement in government, with the president enjoying sweeping powers. 
** They say it does not reflect public demands for a ceremonial president,
a prime minister accountable to parliament and proportional representation
in parliamentary elections. 
** They say the proposed constitution does not have provisions for truly
independent commissions to run elections and deal with corruption. 

Tony Gosling <tony at gaia.org>

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