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Zimbabwe civic groups plan conference to discuss new constitution
September 09, 2005

HARARE – Zimbabwe civic groups will next week convene a conference to discuss the way forward in the wake of the government’s railroading of constitutional amendments in parliament last week.

The conference whose theme is: "Deciding Zimbabwe’s Destiny – A New Constitution For All, By All – Now!" is set to be attended by the all the major political parties and civic groups in the country.

Among the groups scheduled to attend are the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions, the Zimbabwe Council of Churches, the National Constitutional Assembly, Zimbabwe National Students Union, Zimbabwe Liberators Platform and the Zimbabwe Union of Journalists.

Jacob Mafume, a Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) board member whose group is organising the conference, confirmed the plans but referred questions to his boss Arnold Tsunga.

The ZLHR said the conference will provide a platform "to meet, discuss, devise strategies and build consensus on the way forward" on the constitutional reform.

Last month, President Robert Mugabe’s ruling ZANU PF party used its majority in the House to railroad controversial constitutional amendments that will, among other things, create a senate and empower the government to seize land from the mainly white farmers without recourse in the courts.

ZLHR criticised the government’s handling of the constitutional reforms in parliament saying the manner in which the Bill was passed "clearly highlight the need for a constitution that is owned by the people and adopted through a popular process rather than a partisan approach."

The lawyers said the conference will seek to "develop an agenda on how the nation can be galvanised into bringing about a new constitution, adopting measures that will compel the authorities to address the need for restoration of the freedoms and democracy that have been incrementally eroded by the government since independence."

The organisers did not divulge what these "measures" would entail. But the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) led by Lovemore Madhuku has in the past demonstrated in the streets demanding a new democratic constitution.

Contacted for comment on Thursday on the planned conference, Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa who was at the forefront in pushing the constitutional reforms in parliament, scoffed at the civic groups’ proposals.

"I suppose it is just a way of accounting for the funds they (non-governmental organisations) get from donors. The ZANU PF government finished the constitutional matter by passing a landmark Bill last month. Where were they? Everyone was consulted," he said. - ZimOnline

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