By Tichaona Sibanda
14 February 2013
Zimbabweans could vote in the first harmonized elections under a new constitution anytime between the 15th and 30th July this year. A highly placed source told us that President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed on the tentative dates recently.
The poll will likely draw regional and international scrutiny after the bloody violence that followed a disputed 2008 ballot.
The principals also agreed that the country will vote to approve or reject the proposed new constitution on March 16th, although the date was described as ‘tentative.’
Normally elections in Zimbabwe are held over a weekend so if the July dates are correct the country would stage elections on the weekend of the 20th or the 27th.
The elections, the first under a new constitution since independence in 1980, will end months of speculation and anxiety among Zimbabweans.
The last harmonized elections five years ago triggered wide scale political violence, blamed on ZANU PF, which saw more than 500 mainly MDC-T supporters killed, many thousands maimed and half a million others displaced.
The new constitution, if adopted, will outlaw the involvement of armed security forces in partisan politics. Douglas Mwonzora, the MDC-T spokesman and COPAC co-chair said there are certain provisions in the constitution that will automatically begin to operate once Mugabe signs the new charter into law.
Mwonzora explained that there will be a two-week grace period after the referendum on March 16th during which Mugabe will be liable ,under the country’s statutes, to sign the constitution into the supreme law of Zimbabwe.
‘At that point the new constitution will bring into effect provisions aimed at leveling the political playing field. By this I refer to chapter 11 of the draft on the conduct of members of the security services.
‘Members of the armed forces will, from the day the President signs the constitution into law, be prohibited from acting in a partisan manner or further the interests of any political party or violate the fundamental rights and freedoms of any person,’ Mwonzora said.
The rest of the constitution will come into effect on the day the new President takes the oath of office.