Parliament passes constitutional amendment Bill
Mugabe's Zanu PF party, using the two-thirds parliamentary majority it won in disputed March elections, approved constitutional changes that also set up a second legislative chamber to be known as the Senate, which critics say will be packed with Mugabe allies.
Zanu PF which needed 98 votes to push the changes through mustered 103 votes for the amendments, with 29 parliamentarians voting "No", 28 of them from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which has criticised the changes as another blow to democracy in Zimbabwe.
Parliament's lone independent legislator - Professor Jonathan Moyo - also voted against the bill - the 17th set of changes to the country's constitution Mr Mugabe has pushed through since independence from Britain in 1980.
"This is a disastrous amendment bill," said Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, which advocates a "people driven" overhaul of the constitution.
"It simply shows how this regime continues in its intention of pulling down the country. It has no other intention except to keep this government in power."
The amendments call for seized farms to be nationalised, effectively barring white farmers from using the courts to challenge seizures which economic analysts say have ruined Zimbabwe's once-thriving agricultural sector.
Professor Jonathan Moyo, a former government spokesman and now the country's only independent MP said: "What makes divisive constitutional bill needlessly controversial, ill-advised, ill-timed and totally misplaced is that Zanu PF has prioritized it and allocated scarce resources better utilized elsewhere to the bill’s proposed institutions at a time when Zimbabweans are going through the worst economic suffering in living memory."
The amendments will also give the Government new tools against its political opponents, allowing it to impose travel bans on Zimbabweans suspected of engaging in terrorist training abroad or who have called for sanctions or military actions against Mr Mugabe's government.
The MDC, which is backed by several Western countries in its charges that ZANU-PF rigged the March polls, has advocated its own set of changes to Zimbabwe's constitution which would limit the tenure of a president to two terms in office and create an "independent" electoral body.
The Government's plan, by contrast, would set up a new Senate of 65 members, of which 50 would be elected, the rest going to traditional chiefs and presidential appointees.
Mr Mugabe's ZANU-PF
argues that the changes will enable the Government to conclude its controversial
land reforms while a Senate will improve the quality of legislation
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