Zimbabwe starts on election law reforms By KITSEPILE NYATHI in Harare | Tuesday, January 29   2013 at  11:37

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe (right) with Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai (left) while announcing the conclusion of the constitution-making process at State House on January 17, 2013 in Harare. PHOTO | AFP 

Zimbabwe has started amending its electoral laws to align them with the draft constitution as preparations for fresh polls gather pace.

The country’s three governing parties early this month finally agreed on the draft constitution that has taken almost five years to craft and a referendum is expected sometime in March.

Justice and Legal Affairs minister Patrick Chinamasa said Tuesday the Electoral Act will be amended soon after the constitution is approved to pave way for the elections.

“We have started drafting amendments to the Electoral Act so that it is aligned to the constitution in case of the draft constitution being adopted at the referendum,” he told state media.

“But these amendments cannot be introduced now but after the president has assented to the Constitution Bill.

“Drafting these amendments now will allow us to immediately amend the Act soon after the presidential assent.”

Roadmap

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs minister Eric Matinenga said the inclusive government wanted to expedite the electoral reforms.

“The ministry of Justice and Legal Affairs should be looking at laws that need to be changed to align them to the new constitution, especially electoral laws because we are anticipating that the new constitution will be adopted,” he said.

“It is their role to start working on those laws that conform to the draft so that they can be incorporated once the draft is assented to.

“We want to do this as quickly as possible, but the challenge now is that I cannot afford to identify the referendum date since it has not yet been proclaimed.”

Southern African Development Community (SADC) leaders who met on the sidelines of the just ended African Union summit in Ethiopia urged President Robert Mugabe to speed up reforms that are crucial for a free and fair poll.

SADC secretary general Tomaz Salamao said South Africa President Jacob Zuma who is the regional body’s facilitator on Zimbabwe had briefed the leaders on preparations for the elections.

“SADC Heads of State and government had a full meeting where President Zuma briefed them on the goings on in Zimbabwe, Madagascar and DRC,” he told journalists in Addis Ababa on Monday.

“President Zuma was tasked to meet the Zimbabwe political leaders with regards to fulfilling the Global Political Agreement (GPA) provisions.”

He said there were a number of reforms proposed in the GPA meant to ensure a credible election that were yet to be implemented.

“These have to be fulfilled before a general election,” he said. "In that same breadth, the parties were told to adhere to the GPA provisions.”

President Zuma’s facilitation team was expected to hold talks with the Zimbabwean parties in Harare on Tuesday to discuss the election roadmap.