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This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Constitutional Amendment 18 of 2007 - Index of articles, opinion and anaylsis

  • Civil society draws divergent views
    Henry Makiwa, SW Radio Africa
    September 28, 2007

    Visit the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional Amendment 18

    Zimbabwe's civil society groups meeting in Bulawayo Saturday, appear to be headed for a showdown after they expressed varied views concerning the ongoing political talks between the opposition and ruling Zanu PF party.

    Coming in the wake of a contentious agreement by the ruling party and the MDC to see through the constitutional amendment #18 two weeks ago, the all-stakeholders civil society meeting has been set to map out the groups' position on the country's political situation.

    Some have criticised the MDC decision, with the National Constitution Assembly (NCA) officially cutting ties with the opposition party, accusing it of "selling out" and "abandoning the principle of a people-driven constitution".

    Some of the organizations expected to attend the weekend meeting include the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, Zimbabwe Law Society and the Zimbabwe National Students Union.

    Representatives of some of the groups within the alliance, on Friday distanced themselves from the NCA's "hard-line" stance against the MDC, paving way for what could be a heated meeting on Saturday.

    Journalist and Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition programmes manager, Pedzisai Ruhanya, recommended that the civil society leaders consider the opinion of their constituencies before settling for "any rash decision".

    Ruhanya said: "We recently held consultative meetings in rural Chivi and Hwange. The people on the ground are saying that the talks must not be rubbished and must be given a chance as long as they come out with a more liberal environment under which we can have free and fair elections next year."

    He went on to say that "rubbishing the opposition for its role in endorsing Amendment 18 of the constitution is clearly unpopular among the common people who have suffered for so long. What they need to see is the repealing of the draconian laws and the return of a free press and airwaves before the election."

    The NCA has made public its position that the MDC - which is part of the civil society alliance - has reneged on the groups' 2005 agreement to refuse settlements of "piecemeal amendments short of a new, people-driven constitution."

    Among the concerns is that the amendment 18, once made into law by Robert Mugabe's signature, will give him powers to appoint a successor and boost parliamentary seats.

    ZESN chairperson, Noel Kututwa, said his organisation had no qualms with the concessions of the political parties as long as they provided for electoral liberties.

    Kututwa said: "The primary objectives of politicians and their parties is to obtain power which is to be expected, and besides there doesn't seen to be any other alternative to the crisis at the moment besides negotiations."

    Kututwa explained that "What is our concern is to see the people getting some free electoral space and we are hoping that when we meet in Bulawayo people will remember to address the key needs of the people and not focus on the political battles that are power-driven."

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