News and Information

MDC leaders battle Mugabe's bills
November 24, 2004
By Cris Chinaka

Harare - Zimbabwe's opposition has mounted a last-ditch effort to block controversial new bills banning foreign funding of rights groups and introducing electoral reforms which it says still favour the ruling party.

Political analysts say the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has virtually no chance of scuttling the bills, with President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party determined to use its nearly two-thirds majority in parliament to ram home laws meant to consolidate its 24-year-old hold on power.

The MDC has nevertheless pulled out all the stops to try to derail the new laws, using a marathon parliamentary debate that lasted 14 hours into Wednesday seeking amendments to water down their more controversial provisions.

'We are a country under sanctions'
In an attack led by MDC legal secretary David Coltart, MDC MPs said the two bills - tabled several months ago and expected to win approval within the next two weeks - had further damaged the reputation of Mugabe's government.

The government has been in the spotlight since Mugabe's re-election in a 2002 poll the MDC and some key Western observers say was rigged, and Zanu-PF's equally controversial victory in parliamentary elections four years ago.

During a debate on proposed electoral reforms, Coltart said the government would never win international legitimacy if it continued to run elections - including next March's parliamentary poll - with rules designed in its favour.

"This government is set on establishing a partisan electoral commission for its own use but I don't think anybody will be deceived about what this is," Coltart said.

"The thing that gives any government legitimacy is a free and fair election and a free and fair election can only be run by a truly independent commission," he added.

The Zanu-PF majority rejected MDC proposals that an independent electoral body proposed by the government be appointed solely by an inclusive parliamentary committee without being vetted by the president.

The ruling party also rejected calls to drop a bill banning non-governmental organisations concentrating on human rights and governance issues from taking foreign funding - a step which could shut many of them down.

The government says the NGO bill is meant to remove unwarranted interference in Zimbabwe's domestic affairs.

"We are a country under sanctions. We are a country subject to a lot of interference from foreign powers and we cannot have a laws legitimising interference in our domestic affairs," Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said.

Chinamasa also said there were enough safeguards in the law to ensure the electoral commission was not biased.


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