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Civic groups accuse MDC of treachery
Sebastian Nyamhangambiri, ZimOnline
September 20, 2007

An alliance of Zimbabwe non-governmental organizations (NGO) has accused the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party of treachery after it endorsed a governmental constitutional reform bill that paves the way for President Robert Mugabe to anoint his successor.

In a sign of growing divisions between the MDC and its key civic allies over the constitutional Bill, the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) accused the opposition party of cutting deals in Parliament with the government in total disregard of ordinary citizens who it said were clamouring for an "open and genuine process of democratisation."

The NCA is a coalition of churches, women's groups, opposition parties, students and workers founded in 1997 and from which the MDC was born two years later.

The NCA, which together with the MDC mobilised voters to reject a government constitutional draft in a 2000 referendum campaigns for a new and people driven constitution for Zimbabwe.

"The MDC's decision to abandon the principle of a people-driven constitution and opting for a process driven by political parties in Parliament is an act of treachery," the NCA said in a statement to be flighted in newspapers beginning today.

"Both (MDC) formations seem to be out of touch with the aspirations of ordinary Zimbabweans who are clamouring for an open and genuine process of democratisation.

"Only a genuine and people driven-driven process will bring the much-needed transformation of our society," said the statement signed by coalition chairman Lovemore Madhuku.

The MDC, which though split into two rival camps has acted together in dealings with Mugabe's ruling ZANU PF party, said in Parliament on Tuesday that it was backing the government constitutional to help create conditions conducive to the peaceful resolution of the country's crisis.

Welshman Ncube, secretary general of one of the MDC factions, rejected the NCA's criticism and insisted the opposition party had endorsed the constitutional reform Bill in the greater interests of resolving Zimbabwe's worsening political and economic crisis.

He said: "Our first and sole responsibility is to seek a solution to the current political and economic crisis under which people are suffering. Hence, our supporting the changed Bill."

Constitution of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 18 Bill will see constituency boundaries changed, parliamentary elections brought forward by two years while Parliament - which Mugabe controls - will be empowered to elect a new president should the incumbent fail to serve a full term.

Analysts see the clause empowering Parliament to elect a new president as an exit mechanism allowing Mugabe, 83, to quit active politics, handpick a successor and possibly rule from the sidelines.

The MDC had pushed for an entirely new constitution that would guarantee basic freedoms and free elections but relented after Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa agreed to changes that watered down the amendment Bill.

The changes included abolishing the president's power to appoint members to the lower house of parliament, which will have 210 members compared to the current 150, and a further expansion of the upper house to 93 members from 84, with five appointees.

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