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Maputo - Zimbabwean Finance Minister Tendai Biti told reporters yesterday in Maputo, where he is attending the summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), that the new impasse over the Zimbabwean constitution is entirely the responsibility of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF.
Earlier in the week SADC Executive Secretary Tomas Salomao was optimistic that the new constitution had been agreed to by all parties in Zimbabwe and could go to a referendum in October, thus paving the way for general elections next year.
But that timetable has been thrown into uncertainty by Zanu-PF’s demand for further amendments. Biti, who is also general secretary of the main faction of the Movement for Democratic change (MDC), led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, told the Mozambique News Agency that, as far as both MDC factions are concerned, the constitution was a done deal.
“Three years were spent discussing the constitution,” he pointed out, and the two MDCs did not accept Zanu-PF reopening those discussions. “When the Zanu-PF team negotiated with the MDCs, we assumed they had the authority from their party to do so”.
Biti insisted that the constitution could not be amended here and there, because it all hung together as a coherent whole. He was unsure what the SADC summit could do to unblock this latest impasse.
Both MDCs wanted the referendum on the constitution to take place in October, Biti said.
If there was no longer agreement with Zanu-PF, perhaps the simplest thing to do would be to put both texts before the Zimbabwean electorate – the text agreed by negotiators of all three parties and the one Zanu-PF is now writing on its own.
Meanwhile, southern African leaders were yesterday mulling over presidential elections in Madagascar that would exclude the two main rivals, strongman Andry Rajoelina and ousted Marc Ravalomanana, a mediator told Sapa-AFP.
Seychelles Foreign Minister Jean-Paul Adams said the SADC summit was discussing the proposal to end a stand-off between the two rivals that has stalled elections in the troubled country.
Neither side has yet reacted to the SADC proposals. The 15-nation bloc suspended Madagascar in 2009 after Rajoelina toppled Ravalomanana.
The question of Ravolomanana’s return from exile in SA has been the main stumbling block to the holding of elections to end the three-year crisis on Africa’s largest island.
Rajoelina says Ravalomanana should be prevented, at all costs, from returning home. He was sentenced in absentia to life imprisonment over the killing of 36 protesters by presidential guards during unrest in 2009, and faces life in prison with hard labour if he returns.
Adam said SADC was working on a plan to ensure peace and security should Ravalomanana go home.
The Seychelles has in recent weeks hosted two failed mediation attempts to get the two leaders to patch up their differences.
Mauritius Foreign Minister Arvin Boolell said the peace plan signed by the feuding sides in September last year under the auspices of SADC had to be respected. - Independent Foreign Service