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Zimbabwean immigrants staying in South Africa were urged on Saturday to return home and vote in the upcoming referendum on a proposed new constitution for the country.
Secretary-general of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party and Minister of Finance Tendai Biti told a media briefing in Pretoria that arriving at the phase of voting for a potential new constitution was “a miracle”.
“I am a constitutional lawyer myself, those who have read it (the new constitution) will agree with me that it can hold its own against the best in the world, including the South African constitution which is one of the finest,” he said.
“We hope that Zimbabweans are going to come in their numbers on March 16 to vote for this very important document. It was not easy arriving at this constitutional and I hope that the miracle will reach fruition by a successful referendum on March 16.”
Biti said he was confident the MDC would win the next elections, set to be held this year after the new Constitution is adopted through the referendum processes.
“When we go to a credible election, the MDC will win and Morgan Tsvangirai will be the next president of Zimbabwe. The MDC is a people’s project, it’s not a political party which was formed in an air-conditioned hotel … the people will protect their project,” he said.
Biti said the MDC is proud of its contribution in the coalition government.
Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe and arch-rival Tsvangirai formed a power-sharing government after a highly disputed election in 2008, and agreed to hold fresh polls only after adopting a new constitution.
“When I became finance minister inflation was 500 billion percent which has never happened (elsewhere) in the world. People were dying of cholera and typhoid - 4, 000 people every week. We have now achieved macro-economic stability, inflation has now been below four percent,” he said.
The coalition government helped mend the economy and avoid a tip into full-fledged conflict in the aftermath of violent elections in 2008.
The minister said the 2013 polls will be a watershed moment in the history of Zimbabwe.
“The 2013 election is without a doubt the most important election after the in 1980 election (which ended years of British colonial rule) in our country. It’s a make or break election for the average Zimbabwean.
“This election will either stop the crisis and bring a legitimate sustainable outcome or will further exacerbate the crisis so the four years we have spent in the inclusive government would have been a waste of time,” he said.
Biti said there was no transparency about the revenue flowing from the export of diamonds from Zimbabwean mines.
“Just last year diamond exports were US 800 million dollars and what only came to the Treasury was US 45 million dollars which is about 10 percent of the total,” said Biti.
Biti, a firebrand critic of Mugabe, expressed gratitude to the people of South Africa and the region for consistent efforts to bring peace and stability to the land-logged nation.
He said for the upcoming election, Zimbabwe needs to invite “an army of observers” to monitor the polls.
“We feel that as a country we should have nothing to hide. Whether you are coming from Timbuktu or Beijing, you should be allowed to come and observe,” said Biti. -Sapa