Referendum sets poll tempo

HARARE - Legislators spent the better part of last week in their constituencies drumming up support for the draft constitution which won a near unanimous vote last weekend.

The referendum has set the tempo for harmonised elections to be held as early as July.

Referendum voting in Mashonaland Central Province

Barely a week after the constitutional referendum, political temperatures are already rising in Mashonaland Central Province as the country hurtles towards another historic plebiscite.

The Daily News toured more than 20 polling stations in the province and saw scores of people in Mt Darwin, Mazowe and Bindura exercising their democratic right through voting during the referendum.

However, there were clear indications that Zanu PF had mobilised its supporters to bar MDC from campaigning freely in the constituencies.

Scores of Zanu PF supporters could be seen emerging from polling stations waving clenched fists, the Zanu PF symbol, while some were wearing party regalia.

At least 356 976 people in the province cast their vote on Saturday with 340 290 voting ‘‘yes’’ against 9 703 for "no".

Countrywide 3 316 082 people voted with 3 079 966 approving the draft while 179 489 rejected the draft.

Although the MDC has been able to make some inroads in the province, it is clear that Zanu PF still calls the shots in the restive region with the party’s posters and billboards plastered everywhere.

Saviour Kasukuwere, Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment minister who is Member of Parliament for Mt Darwin South and Dickson Mafios, MP for Mt Darwin South, toured their respective constituencies monitoring the polling.

“We are ready for the general election and in this province we don’t expect MDC to get any seat. I have started my campaign in the constituency and our supporters are fully behind President Robert Mugabe,” said Mafios, who is also the provincial chairperson and is confident that Zanu PF would romp to victory in the forthcoming general election.

Patrick Zhuwao, Zanu PF MP for Zvimba East, was also in the province as part of a team monitoring the referendum and was joined by British, Australian and Swedish diplomats who were part of the foreign diplomats team.

The three legislators cast their votes at Chiunye Primary School in Mt Darwin South Constituency.

Even before the referendum results were announced, youths in the province were already popping champagne bottles singing celebratory songs and at times Zanu PF revolutionary tunes.

By mid-day over 600 people had cast their votes at Chiunye Primary School, Mt Darwin Hospital, Mt Darwin Creche School and Kamutsedzere polling station.

The rains did not stop people from going out in huge numbers to cast their votes.

This was also the pattern at Bindura North, Bindura DA offices, Bindura Hall, and Tsungubvi Flea Market polling stations.

In Mazowe South Constituency at Vonambo Primary School, Storis Golden Shaft Primary School and Glendale Country Club polling stations, a high turnout was recorded.

Some people regarded as aliens under the Lancaster House Constitution were turned away at some polling stations and they were joined by a few others who did not have proper identification documents.

“I am happy with how the people have responded to our campaign that they should come in huge numbers to vote. This is a sign of what is going to happen in the harmonised elections. We have a conducive and peaceful environment, no one was force-marched to the polling station,” said Kasukuwere.

“This is a landmark history in our country as people are voting for their own constitution. I have no doubt we are going to have an overwhelming ‘‘yes’’ vote in the province,” said Kasukuwere.

The draft constitution is part of an internationally and regionally backed plan to get the country back on track.

Debate on elections date

Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga has rubbished Mugabe’s statement that Parliament’s term will end this month.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Matinenga said Parliament will have to sit on May 7 to debate on the draft constitution and formally adopt the document.

“Parliament has already adopted a motion on the draft. What is remaining now is the gazetting of the draft. A Constitutional Bill will be brought to Parliament for debate in May. After parliamentary approval it will be signed by the president into a law,” said Matinenga.

“I cannot tell you the date when we are going for elections, but I know that the parliamentary term ends on June 29, as it runs concurrently with the term of Mugabe who was sworn on June 29, 2008.

Between June 29 and October 29, 2013 we can have our general elections,” said Matinenga.

Mugabe has been quoted in the press arguing that the life of the current Parliament will expire on March 31.

Matinenga also emphasised the need for a new voters’ roll before fresh elections are held, saying Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar-General who superintended over the roll is not credible.

“We do have problem with our voters’ roll and I fail to understand why as a country we have failed to have a new roll. I could have preferred to have a bio-metric register which takes six months to complete as other countries have done,” said Matinenga.

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