Skip to main content

Zimbabweans vote on new constitution before elections

From Columbus Mavhunga, for CNN
March 16, 2013 -- Updated 0913 GMT (1713 HKT)
Posters call on Zimbabweans to say yes during the March 16 vote on the constitutional referendum.
Posters call on Zimbabweans to say yes during the March 16 vote on the constitutional referendum.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • If approved, which is highly likely, the constitution will give more powers to the parliament
  • It will also limit the power of the president
  • President Robert Mugabe, 89, has been in power since 1980

Harare, Zimbabwe (CNN) -- Zimbabweans voted Saturday for a key referendum on a new constitution that limits presidential terms for the first time in the African nation.

Robert Mugabe, 89, has been in power for decades, first serving as prime minister in 1980 and taking over as president seven years later.

"This is a Zimbabwean document to replace a British one. That is why I voted for it," said Babra Mheno, 34, a university student, referring to the nation's former colonial rulers.

If approved, which is highly likely, the constitution will give more powers to the parliament and limit the president's. It also introduces a two-term limit of five years each for a president.

The limit will not apply in retrospect, which means Mugabe has 10 more years as head of state if he is re-elected.

Zimbabwe's challenge: Confidence
Zimbabwe's victim turned survivor
Would you Holiday in Zimbabwe?
Amnesty: World leaders falling short

"I have voted no for the document," said Kizito Marwe, at a polling station east of Harare. "It was written by politicians, not Zimbabweans."

The 27-year-old said he'll spend the rest of the day taking advantage of the public holiday.

"I was in line for two hours. I am heading home and spending the day watching TV," he said.

Mugabe has indicated he will run for re-election during the polls scheduled for between July and October.

The referendum -- one of the conditions set before an election -- clears the way for the first poll since a disputed outcome plunged the nation into chaos in 2008.

The upcoming election will end the fragile coalition between Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Both entered a power-sharing agreement in 2009 after regional leaders nullified Mugabe's victory,citing violence by his loyalists targeted at rival supporters. The two leaders are expected to run for president.

About half of the nation of 12 million is expected to vote in the referendum.

The referendum also addresses gender equality, and sets aside 60 parliamentary seats for women out of a total of 310.

In days leading up to the referendum, Mugabe shut out Western observers, but allowed monitors from African nations to take part.

Sporadic reports of violence have marred campaigns in the days leading up to the election.

"We should not have violence ... the party will not tolerate that nonsense (political violence) whether it is intra-party or inter-party," Mugabe said in a statement this week.

CNN's Nana Karikari-apau contributed to this report

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
Tethered to an IV drip, 71-year-old Shin Young Ja lies under a thin fleece blanket, nursing a broken back and wracked with survivor's guilt.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1123 GMT (1923 HKT)
Family members of the missing passengers are pinning slim hopes on floundering air pockets.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1614 GMT (0014 HKT)
An Iranian mother slaps and then forgives her 17-year old son's murderer in dramatic scenes at the gallows.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1135 GMT (1935 HKT)
An "extraordinary" video shows what looks like the largest and most dangerous gathering of al Qaeda in years.
April 14, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
Explore each side's case, reconstructed from Pistorius' court affidavit and the prosecution's case during last year's bail hearing.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1237 GMT (2037 HKT)
Mentions of the 1989 Tiananmen Square student protests or political reform are still censored in China.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0934 GMT (1734 HKT)
The Hadza are one of the last communities of hunter-gatherers in the world -- but losing their land.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 0122 GMT (0922 HKT)
In choosing to change a traditional practice, Francis is being as radical as Jesus was in his own time.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1113 GMT (1913 HKT)
Too weak. Can't handle pressure. Unattractive to sponsors. Susie Wolff has heard it all.
April 21, 2014 -- Updated 0014 GMT (0814 HKT)
Browse through images you don't always see on news reports from CNN teams around the world.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1230 GMT (2030 HKT)
It's like finding a needle in a universe-wide haystack. Researchers have located a planet roughly the size of Earth that could be habitable.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 0940 GMT (1740 HKT)
Dubai, long champion of all things biggest, longest and most expensive, will soon have some competition from a neighboring country.
ADVERTISEMENT