By Faith Zaba
HARARE- As the Constitution Select Committee (Copac) is busy working on a draft document, it has now emerged that most people who made inputs during the body’s countrywide outreach meetings want the maximum age for a presidential candidate to be 70 years as at the time of polling.
If approved by the three political parties in the coalition government, this clause would effectively bar President Robert Mugabe, who turns 88 next month, from contesting in the next elections later this year or 2013.
Material gleaned by the Zimbabwe Independent shows that at least seven out of the country’s 10 provinces have expressed a strong age-limit preference of 70 years for a presidential candidate, while other provinces suggested a limit of not more than 80 years.
A source told the Zimbabwe Independent that if Copac were to go by what the majority of people who participated in the outreach meetings wanted, the presidential maximum age limit would be set at 70 years.
“Yes, it is true that the majority of people want the age limit to be 70 years for a presidential candidate; that is the proposal at the moment. But so far, no one has raised the issue or objected to that proposal,” the source said.
Asked what his party — which has already endorsed Mugabe’s candidacy — would do if that proposal sailed through, Zanu PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said he could not discuss the matter until the politburo had been briefed by its Copac co-chairperson Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana at a meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.
“Well, I don’t know about that,” said Gumbo. “We will probably discuss matters to do with the constitution at our next meeting on the 25th (Wednesday) of this month,” he said.
Mugabe has threatened to undermine the constitution-making process if the draft constitution does not capture all Zanu PF’s positions.
In a Zanu PF central committee report tabled at the party’s national conference in Bulawayo last month, Mugabe said: “I must also make it very clear that Zanu PF reserves the right to dissociate itself from a draft constitution which seeks to undermine the cardinal goals of our national liberation struggle and our national culture and values.”
Zanu PF wants the new draft document to retain a powerful executive president with unchecked powers.
The Zanu PF position paper makes it clear that the land reform programme was irreversible and wants the constitution to promote indigenisation and empowerment. It also calls for the prohibition of homosexuality and same sex marriages.
Gumbo said: “There are issues we are passionate about, which we want included in the constitution, like the land issue.”
Zanu PF and its affiliates, such as war veterans and war collaborators, have attacked the principal drafters, Justice Moses Chinhengo, Brian Crozier and Priscilla Madzonga, and called for the disbanding of the parliamentary process for allegedly introducing issues which were rejected by people during the outreach meetings.
The issues include land rights, dual citizenship and homosexuality, among others.
Mugabe, who has been Zimbabwe’s only leader since Independence, would be seeking to extend his 32 years in power after Zanu PF endorsed him as its presidential candidate for polls set after the draft constitution has been tested in a referendum.
Mugabe is set to battle it out with 59 year-old Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai for the state presidency in what would be a replay of the 2002 and 2008 contests which were a close shave for the long serving leader.
Mugabe told his supporters last month that he would only retire after what his party calls “illegal sanctions” were removed. Explosive revelations in United States diplomatic cables by whistleblower website WikiLeaks last year showed that Mugabe’s close allies were desperate for leadership renewal in Zanu PF.
The faction led by the late retired army commander General Solomon Mujuru wanted Mugabe out, but failed to block Mugabe’s nomination at the party’s extraordinary congress in December 2007 where former politburo members Dumiso Dabengwa and Simba Makoni, who later quit in frustration, were geared to mount a surprise challenge against their leader. Zimbabwe Independent
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