By Sawi Lutibezi
WINDHOEK, 16 MAR (NAMPA) - Zimbabwean women will be guaranteed much more than is presently the case if the people of Zimbabwe vote in favour of the draft constitution.
Zimbabweans voted on Saturday in a referendum on whether to adopt or reject a draft constitution.
About six million of Zimbabwe's population of 12 million are eligible to vote in the referendum.
Results are expected within five days.
?Women in Zimbabwe are so excited they are speaking with one voice across the board. Right now as we speak, women have gone out to campaign that more people vote for this draft constitution,? said Zimbabwean Ambassador to Namibia Chipo Zindoga.
She told Nampa on enquiry Friday that in line with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol, women have been under represented in Zimbabwe?s parliament.
?If approved, the new constitution will allow at least 60 of the 150 seats in parliament to be reserved for women,? the Zimbabwean diplomat said.
A Gender Commission is also on the cards to ensure that women are represented at all levels.
Zindonga said with the new constitution, women will be treated on the same level as men, be it in the mining sector or agriculture sector, women will also now benefit more.
She said women are in the majority in Zimbabwe, and they have all been urged to go out in large numbers and vote in favour of the referendum.
?I am hoping though that the people of Zimbabwe will not reject the draft constitution and that it will be overwhelmingly accepted,? she said.
The draft constitution also proposes a number of sweeping changes such as a reduction in the Zimbabwean president's powers.
The president's influence on the intelligence services and the military will be limited, his immunity will be lifted and presidential office terms would be limited to two five-year periods. However, incumbent president Robert Mugabe's previous years in office would not be taken into account, which means he could theoretically rule until he is 99 years old.
The draft constitution also strengthens the bill of rights to protect all Zimbabweans from 'torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment or punishment' that would be enforced by a new Constitutional Court with powers above the main existing highest court of appeal, the Supreme Court.
The draft also recognises as irreversible the seizure of thousands of white-owned commercial farms for handing over to blacks since the year 2000, black empowerment programmes and taking local control of foreign-owned mines and businesses.
The draft retains a ban on same-sex marriage and upholds the death penalty, but limits it to cases of 'murder committed in aggravating circumstances' by men aged between 21 and 70.
It further aims to expand some civil rights, by introducing clauses on freedom of the press, access to information, political choice and activity and prisoners' rights, while introducing partial devolution of power to provincial councils.
?There is no perfect constitution in the world, but what we are happy about is that for the first time in Zimbabwean history, we have decided to come together and draft this document. So, we are hoping that it will be a resounding ?yes? vote,? said Zindonga.
?There is a lot of excitement. This document was not a compromise between us and the colonisers. This is ours to reflect what we want as a nation and how we should be governed,? she said.
The new draft constitution will replace the present Lancaster House Constitution, which was negotiated in London before Zimbabwe?s independence in 1980, and has been amended 19 times since then.
The new constitution was a condition of a fractious government coalition formed after violent and disputed 2008 elections.
Zimbabwe took three years to come up with a draft constitution. A 115-page document was only released in early February, giving voters little time to read and digest it before they vote.