Saturday, July 11, 2009

Zim to begin consultations aimed at drafting new constitution

Zim to begin consultations aimed at drafting new constitution
Written by Kingsley Kaswende in Harare, Zimbabwe
Saturday, July 11, 2009 3:26:07 PM

ZIMBABWE will next Monday begin intense stakeholder consultations aimed at drafting a new constitution amid bickering between ZANU-PF and the MDC over the law-writing process.

As agreed in the global political agreement that established the fragile inclusive government, a new constitution is viewed as fundamental to efforts aimed at staging free and fair elections, as well as removing factors responsible for ruining the country's economy.

A constitution conference was scheduled for yesterday but was pushed to Monday, as political infighting between MDC and ZANU-PF intensifies.

The conference was delayed because of the parties' clashes over logistical issues and the use of the Kariba draft constitution in framing the new constitution.

Monday's convention is expected to see the setting up of committees drawn from all the political parties to run outreach programmes to get people's views on the new constitution.

But several civil society groups, like the National Constitutional Assembly, are deeply critical of the process saying politicians should not be leading it.

Their fears were born out of remarks by President Robert Mugabe, who insisted on the Kariba draft constitution as a framework for the new constitution.

The MDC has already said it will oppose this despite appending their signature to the Kariba draft in September 2007.

Experts say that draft entrenches the executive powers of the President and leaves President Mugabe's powers intact.

The Kariba draft was produced and signed by Zanu-PF and the MDC in 2007 during talks under the auspices of former South African president Thabo Mbeki.

About 4,000 delegates representing local organisations from across the country are expected to attend the Monday conference.

The largest number of delegates will come from political parties, which will send 1,600 representatives to the conference.

Religious organisations will be represented by 400 delegates, non-governmental organisation by 320, while freedom fighters and women's bodies will have 240 delegates each.

Other participants are to be drawn from organisations representing youths and students, farmers, the informal sector, the business community, people living with disabilities, traditional leaders, traditional healers, arts and culture, children, media and local authorities.

Academics, representatives of parastatals, residents and ratepayers, government arms, sports, minority groups, professional bodies and the elderly will also send delegations to the convention to be held at the Harare International Conference Centre.

Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, the co-chairpersons of parliamentary select committee on constitution-making Paul Mangwana (ZANU-PF) and Douglas Mwonzora (MDC) said all logistics for the conference were in place.

"All logistics to deal with transportation, accommodation and reaching out to the people have been completed and as a committee we are satisfied," said Mangwana.

And Mwonzora said he was concerned about the timing of the event.

"We are glad that the timelines that were set through the Global Political Agreement will be met," Mwonzora said. "The delays in identifying the names of groups and organisations to send representatives to the conference were so that we could deal with the possibility of bogus organisations...We had to be thorough. The delay has helped us in making sure there is an equitable participation of stakeholders to ensure Zimbabweans can participate in the constitution-making process."

After the all-stakeholders' conference, various thematic committees will go around the country to collate the public's views on what the new constitution should contain. Thereafter, a document will be written and presented to the electorate in a referendum.

According to the GPA, elections are supposed to be held under a new constitution within 18 months of the formation of the inclusive government.

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