The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations have endorsed the draft constitution as Zimbabwe prepares for a referendum to be held on Saturday which analysts say somewhat reduces the powers of the presidency and introduces dual citizenship, but critics say it does not reflect the wishes of its citizens.

A new constitution is part of an agreement of President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai signed before the formation of a power sharing government in 2009.

Regional leaders asked the shaky government to have a new constitution that will pave way for elections.

“While this process was attended by many questions, challenges and controversies, it presented a milestone in the history of Zimbabwe and a unique opportunity to bring the nation of Zimbabwe together to forge a common future. 

“The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations (Evangelical Fellowship of Zimbabwe (EFZ), Zimbabwe Catholic Bishops Conference (ZCBC), Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC), the Union for the Development of the Apostolic Churches In Zimbabwe Africa (UDACIZA) have long held the position contained in the Zimbabwe We Want Vision document that states a people-centered and people-crafted constitution is the centerpiece of governance and development. 

“The current Lancaster House constitution was not inspired by the collective consent and consensus of the people of Zimbabwe. The absence of a home-grown constitution remains a source of dissatisfaction. 

“Governance by consent and consensus is the key to peace, stability, social and economic development. Any resolution to the current polarization in Zimbabwe demands an inclusive approach to issues of constitution making and governance,” reads part of the statement. 

About 5 million people are expected to cast their vote at 10,000 polling stations across Zimbabwe, according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which runs the African’s referendums and elections.

The four-year journey to the drafting of the new constitution was affected by lack of funds as well as disagreements between Mugabe and Tsvangirai’s parties on the contents of the proposed charter which cost the broke nation more than USD50 million, most of which was donated by the west.

The statement read, “Despite misgivings about the political bias and the inclusivity of the process, the Zimbabwe Heads of Denominations, notwithstanding these misgivings, unanimously agreed to engage the constitution making process and to contribute to the formulation of the new constitution.

“To this end, several meetings were held internally with Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations members, and also externally with COPAC and its chairpersons relating to the church’s position on numerous constitutional issues.” 

The Zimbabwe Heads of Christian Denominations presented said it presented COPAC with 24 issues that the church believed were democratically and morally significant to Zimbabwe and its Christian constituency. 

“The vast majority of these issues (19 out of 24) were incorporated into the draft constitution without much ado, as they coincided with universally held democratic principles,” the statement read. 

The organisations however bemoaned the inclusion of sections that talks about abortion and death sentence. 

“Regrettably, and despite several engagements with COPAC and its chairpersons, those issues relating to abortion and homosexuality, while contained in some measure in Section 48 and Section 78 (respectively) failed to capture the position, moral principles, spiritual values and vision of the Zimbabwe We Want as a church guided by the Bible. 

“The issues of abortion and homosexuality hold a fundamental significance to the church beyond mere moral persuasion and preference. The issue of abortion relates to the conception of life itself, its divine sanctity and protection. 

“The issue of homosexuality relates to the Biblical concept and conception of the family as a cornerstone and foundation of all society and all humanity,” reads part of the statement.

Civic organisations have argued that the draft constitution – which outlaws homosexuality, introduces two-term president limits – does not reflect the wishes of Zimbabwe.

Led by the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) NGOs have started campaigning for a vote “NO.” The organisation says the draft constitution reflects the wishes of Zanu PF and the MDC only.

The denominations urged church leaders and Christians in Zimbabwe to engage in advocacy for a Yes vote.