By Tichaona Sibanda
19 March 2013
Zimbabwe’s new constitution received overwhelming approval from voters in a referendum on Saturday, according to final results released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) on Tuesday.
Nearly 95 percent of voters approved the constitution, compared with 5.5 percent who voted No, and the total votes cast has turned out to be the highest in any poll since Independence in 1980, beating the previous record set in the 2002 presidential election.
In that poll, pitting Robert Mugabe against Morgan Tsvangirai, 3,046,891 voted. Saturday’s referendum attracted 3,259, 454 votes.
A total of 3,079,966 people (representing 94.5 percent) voted Yes while 179, 489 voted No. There were 56,627 spoilt papers. The results were announced in Harare by the ZEC chief election officer, Lovemore Sekeramayi.
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said every Zimbabwean should be happy with the result of the referendum.
‘What is more important is the number of votes polled which is the highest in the history of elections of this country. This comment that the result is not legitimate is not serious,’ he said.
The constitution’s supporters declared that Zimbabwe had entered a new era and the charter’s approval paves the way for elections, likely to be held by July this year.
‘The people have spoken loudly in favour of democratic change. There can be nothing more people driven than this,’ Minister of State in the Prime Minister’s office Jameson Timba said on his Facebook page.
He added: ‘The total valid votes cast are 55 percent of total registered voters hence the referendum is credible and legitimate and represents the will of the people.’
The referendum comes five years after violence erupted following the 2008 elections, which were marred by allegations of vote rigging and fraud. More than 500 people were killed in the state sponsored and politically motivated attacks. Hundreds of thousands were displaced.
A new constitution was a key provision of a power-sharing deal that ended the violence. In the run-up to Saturday’s vote, many Zimbabweans had feared that violence would again come back to haunt the country following its resurgence in some parts of the country.
But analysts believe it passed off peacefully because both President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were in favor of the constitution, ensuring that most Zimbabweans would support its passage.
The constitution, which Mugabe must sign into law, limits the president’s stay in power to two five year terms. The charter also provides for the establishment of a National Prosecuting Authority, fixed terms for service chiefs and heads of parastatals and other government institutions and creates institutions that (in theory) are supposed to promote democracy, peace, transparency and accountability.
Some individuals and organizations opposed the constitution, saying it was nothing more than a political process, worked out between the three political parties in the unity government and that it did not reflect the will of the people.
Blessing Vava, spokesman for the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), wrote on his Facebook page saying: ‘This process was just a battle in the war for democratic change in our lifetime. We lost the battle but the war is on until total victory…we will never betray the generational mission to realize all the Peoples Charter and Convention objectives…No retreat No Surrender.”
ZANU PF’s COPAC co-chairman Paul Mangwana said the margin of the referendum’s success is testimony that it represented the wishes of the Zimbabwean people.
‘Yesterday we were called sellouts, but today people have shown that we are not sellouts. We are extremely happy with the massive endorsement this referendum has received, especially given that it has recorded the highest number of votes since independence,’ Mangwana added.
His MDC-T counterpart, Douglas Mwonzora, expressed the hope that the peace that prevailed during the referendum will be repeated during the harmonized poll in a few months time.
‘There was a 26 percent increase of people who voted in the referendum than the 2008 elections because then there was war waged against the people and massive intimidation.
‘In this referendum, there was no intimidation, no war and no forced disappearances. This extra 26 percent number of extra voters represents the intimidated voters in 2008,’ Mwonzora said.
See the results