Africa News & Features

15 July 2009 

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Turmoil & Disorganization Mar First Zimbabwean Constitutional Conference

15 July 2009

Zimbabwe's power-sharing government and parliament along with civic activists and ordinary citizens took stock Wednesday of the first national stakeholders convention in the process of writing a new constitution, disrupted Monday by militants of the former ruling ZANU-PF party and relaunched Tuesday through the intervention of the president and prime minister.

President Robert Mugabe warned that the government would "brook no further disruption" of the constitutional revision process after militant youths of his ZANU-PF broke up the first day of the conference singing revolutionary songs and intimidating floor delegates. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai in the same news conference deplored the incident in which the House speaker of his Movement for Democratic Change was obliged to leave the hall.

Political sources said Wednesday that tensions were still running high between ZANU-PF and the MDC on the way forward in the convoluted constitutional process.

Sources said ZANU-PF was still pressing for the controversial Kariba draft - named for the northern resort town where ZANU-PF and the MDC hammered out the document in 2007 in the approach to what turned out to be a traumatic 2008 election cycle - to be the basis for the new constitution whereas the MDC says the country must start with a clean slate.

Critics of the document say the Kariba draft favored by ZANU-PF would increase presidential powers while giving short shrift to human and civil rights.

Under the September 2008 Global Political Agreement underpinning the unity government in Harare, the constitution is supposed to be drafted, approved by voters in a referendum and adopted as the country's basic document by late 2010 - following which the widespread expectation is that another round of national elections would be held.

Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe despite the abortive conference opening Monday, delegates Tuesday formed thematic committees which will now solicit opinions from around the country. 

Meanwhile, at least 400 delegates to the so-called all-stakeholders conference were stranded in Harare after failing to obtain reimbursement from organizers for their transportation and accommodation, reported Harare correspondent Thomas Chiripasi.

Elsewhere, Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma blamed Monday's fiasco on the parliamentary select committee responsible for the revision process, saying poor organization led to the confusion and chaos of the first day's proceedings, reported Irwin Chifera.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...

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