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Tsvangirai Says Zimbabwe Draft Constitution Not Debatable

Aug. 28 (Bloomberg) -- Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai rejected a bid by President Robert Mugabe’s party to change the country’s draft constitution unilaterally and called for the document to be put to a vote.

Mugabe’s Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front party led the country for almost three decades before being forced by the 15-nation Southern African Development Community to share power with Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change and a splinter faction of that party, led by Welshman Ncube. Under the SADC-brokered accord, the parties must draft a new constitution, put it to a referendum and then hold elections.

“A new constitution is central to elections and to the reform agenda in Zimbabwe, and if this process collapsed it will spell doom to prospects of credible and free and fair elections,” Tsvangirai told reporters in the capital Harare today. “It would be suicidal for us to participate in these elections without reforms.”

Zanu-PF removed dual citizenship from the draft constitution, gave the president executive powers to dissolve parliament, declare war, appoint judges without interview and enjoy complete immunity, according to David Coltart, a senator in Ncube’s party.

The changes have “nothing to do with what all the parties have agreed,” Tsvangirai said. “It’s time people reached a decision through a referendum.”

The power-sharing deal was approved after a series of violent and disputed elections and a decade-long recession in the southern African nation that drove millions of its citizens into neighboring states in search of work.

Delay Planned

Two members of Zanu-PF’s top decision-making body, including a Cabinet minister, said earlier this month that the party planned to stall a referendum on the proposed constitution because it believes it will lose the election. The officials declined to be identified because the party’s strategy hasn’t been made public.

Delays to the referendum may hinder an economic recovery, with companies hesitant to invest in mining the world’s second-biggest platinum and chrome reserves without knowing who will rule the country. Mugabe’s party has threatened to nationalize foreign-owned assets and is pushing for a law that requires companies to sell 51 percent of their local assets to black Zimbabweans.

Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd., Aquarius Platinum Ltd. and Anglo American Platinum Ltd. own platinum mines in the country while Rio Tinto Plc owns a diamond mine. Barclays Plc, Old Mutual Plc and Standard Chartered Plc also operate there.

To contact the reporter on this story: Godfrey Marawanyika in Johannesburg at gmarawanyika@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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