Mugabe, Tsvangirai's milestone

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai has described the referendum vote as historic as his counterpart President Robert Mugabe admitted that time given to Zimbabweans to digest the draft charter was inadequate.

Mugabe and Tsvangirai who voted in high density suburbs of Highfield and Chitungwiza respectively were mobbed by their loyalists who were also casting their votes in the historic referendum, which is a prelude to watershed polls.

Tsvangirai, who shares power with Mugabe in a shaky coalition government formed four years ago, told reporters yesterday Zimbabwe has turned a new page as it heads towards make-or-break polls, touted as the most important since independence from Britain in 1980.

“We are voting because we want things to change. This is a historic step in the journey that we have travelled.

“Those who died (for freedom) should rest in peace because this constitution ushers a new political dispensation and introduces the culture of constitutionalism,” said Tsvangirai, who voted at Chaminuka Primary School in Chitungwiza around 10am along with his colourfully-dressed wife Elizabeth.

Mugabe, who was accompanied by his wife Grace and daughter Bona, seemed to agree with Tsvangirai as he cast his vote at noon at Mhofu Primary School in Highfield. He said the new constitution is going to give Zimbabweans greater liberties.

The 89-year-old strongman, who has been in power since 1980, said the draft constitution introduces a raft of measures which will enhance the separation of powers between the Executive, Parliament and the Judiciary.

However, the octogenarian leader admitted that the time given to Zimbabweans to peruse the draft constitution was not enough.

“At the end of the day more time was needed,” said Mugabe when asked about the two-week period given to Zimbabweans to read the final draft constitution agreed to between his Zanu PF and the MDC formations in the unity government.

But the Zanu PF leader said parties in the coalition government are not to blame since people contributed to the constitution-making process during the outreach phase, which was also marred by a low turnout.

Sadc secretary general Tomaz Salomao, who witnessed Mugabe and Tsvangirai cast their votes, said his team was impressed by the voting process notwithstanding the violent hiccups that occurred in Mbare on Friday.

“The reports we are getting from our team is that everything is going well and we say to Zimbabweans well done. This is a milestone paving way for the most important step, that is elections. We hope that Zimbabweans will perform in the same way they have done during elections,” said Salomao.

Salomao said there is need for partners in the coalition government to implement the power sharing Global Political Agreement (GPA) before crucial polls which may be held in July.

In Mbare, the volatile constituency where Zanu PF controls business conduits, turnout was high notwithstanding the tense atmosphere that hung in Harare’s oldest suburb.

Markets were closed in the explosive suburb which is an MDC stronghold apparently to allow people to vote.

The adoption of a new constitution will pave way for Mugabe and Tsvangirai to tussle it out for presidency again in elections —where stakes will of course be much higher — and Sadc says it is going to deploy larger numbers for the process.

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