NCA threatens court action over referendum

HARARE - A pro-democracy group says it will take the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to court if the body fails to give Zimbabweans ample time to study the draft constitution before the referendum.

The National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a broad alliance of opposition parties, church groups, trade unions and civic organisations, said the constitution-making process was a massive fraud.

Formed nearly 16 years ago to highlight what they believed to be the shortcomings of the Lancaster House Constitution which has been amended 19 times, the NCA says President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai are fooling Zimbabweans.

Lovemore Madhuku, the NCA chairperson, warned that the fast-track process to take the document to a referendum before the people understood its contents was open to legal challenge.

 The document, which sailed through Parliament in two days after Mugabe and Tsvangirai whipped MPs into backing the project, is expected to be put to a referendum by March.

Madhuku said Zec must exhibit impartiality and professionalism before, during and after the referendum.
“Zec should give adequate period for the campaign to enable all voters to have a full grasp of the provisions of the draft constitution before making their choice,” Madhuku said.

“A minimum of two months is required. Our lawyers have been instructed to make an urgent challenge in the Supreme Court should a shorter period be given.”

The constitutional reform advocacy body demanded the implementation of a raft of reforms before the referendum such as equal access to media by all players and the suspension of provisions of harsh security laws.

When the government hurriedly set up a Constitution Select Committee (Copac) in 2009, the NCA refused to participate and raised concern that Mugabe and Tsvangirai would end up negotiating the document.

The NCA was vindicated when the two principals struck a deal on the draft and forced Copac and Parliament to accept the negotiated draft.

Madhuku said the NCA will launch a door-to-door “no” campaign, dubbed “Take Charge.”

The government says a “no” vote would mean sticking with the present Constitution, with all its defects.

The NCA calls this “a scare tactic” and says a “no” vote would mean writing a better document than the one currently on offer, which the NCA says is worse than the rejected 2000 draft and the Kariba draft.

If approved, Mugabe insists that harmonised elections will be held soon after the referendum. - Staff Writer

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