Eight political parties demand new constitution

Itai Dzamara

EIGHT opposition political parties yesterday submitted a petition to President Robert Mugabe demanding a new constitution before next year’s general election.



=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>”We demand a homegrown people-driven democratic constitution as a precondition for the holding of the March 2005 general election in Zimbabwe,” the parties said.


The petition was signed by the National Alliance for Good Governance, the Zimbabwe African People’s Union-Federal Party, Multiracial Open Party Christian Democrats, the Zimbabwe African National Union, United Parties, Zimbabwe African People’s Union, Democratic Party (DP), and the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).


The parties drafted the petition under the auspices of the political parties liaison committee, which falls under the structures of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and other civil society sectors.


“We state strongly that the amended Lancaster House Constitution,

currently in force in Zimbabwe, is colonial and illegitimate. The continued use of this illegitimate foreign constitution by you and your government is by default and needs to be terminated forthwith,” the petition to Mugabe said.

“Its use has caused, and is still causing, untold misery and suffering among the people of Zimbabwe.”


The political parties proposed a roadmap “to a homegrown people-driven democratic constitution in Zimbabwe by March 2005”.


The submission of the petition yesterday was seen as a first step, to be followed by the dissolution of parliament. Public consultation would follow to gather people’s inputs which would culminate in a draft document. A referendum would then follow before the election.


Chairman of the political parties’ committee Wurayayi Zembe said they were waiting for Mugabe’s response. Zembe said they could not rule out protest action to pressure Mugabe into constitutional change.


A Zanu PF-backed draft constitution was rejected by Zimbabweans at a referendum in February 2000 and was followed by farm invasions.


In a televised Independence day interview last year, Mugabe dismissed calls for constitutional change citing the rejection of his government’s draft in 2000 as evidence that the issue was not among the country’s priorities.

Debate has dominated the political scene over whether opposition parties should contest next year’s election under current electoral laws. Differences have emerged among opposition parties and civil society with some calling for electoral amendments whilst others demand a new constitution.


The MDC leadership is also divided over participating in elections under the current framework. The dilemma has been worsened by its defeat in the recent Zengeza by-election marred by violence and intimidation.