Clash in cabinet over referendum Bill

ZANU PF ministers clashed with their MDC counterparts in cabinet this week over the Referendum Amendment Bill with President Robert Mugabe and allies rejecting the diaspora vote and a proposal to allow the public to petition for a referendum on any contentious issue.

Report by Brian Chitemba
Impeccable sources told the Zimbabwe Independent that the coalition government partners engaged in a fierce clash over clauses of the Referendum Amendment Bill.

 
The Bill, according to officials who attended the meeting on Tuesday, was later accepted with Zanu PF rejecting critical issues like the diaspora vote which it fears.

 
The meeting discussed the Referendum Act Amendment Bill ahead of the second all-stakeholders’ conference as pressure mounts for the unity government partners to conclude the constitution-making process.

 
Zanu PF, critics say, fears the diaspora vote because millions of Zimbabweans who are living abroad fled political and economic turmoil created by Mugabe’s authoritarian regime mainly from 2000.

 
“MDC formations’ ministers argued every Zimbabwean, local or foreign-based, should be allowed to vote, but Zanu PF rejected the amendment since they have their own fears,” a minister said.

 
Zanu PF ministers further opposed MDCs’ moves to empower citizens to demand a referendum on any contentious issues like devolution through a petition. This, some ministers said, was mainly intended to preserve Mugabe’s sole authority in deciding when and how to call for a referendum as stipulated in the current Act.

 
Ministers agreed that voters in the referendum should not be registered voters as is the case in elections, but every Zimbabwean with an identity card would be allowed to cast the ballot.

 
“It’s unfortunate that in an inclusive government, when there is no consensus, an issue is rejected despite the fact that other parties want it,” said the minister.

 
The second all-stakeholders’ conference is expected next month to pave way for a referendum on the Copac draft.

 
Zanu PF, which made 266 amendments to the latest Copac draft, claims the new draft does not incorporate people’s views gathered during the outreach programme.

 
Copac says over 2 000 delegates are expected to attend the second all-stakeholders’ conference with Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC seconding 600 representatives.

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