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civic groups plot way forward
Sebastian Nyamhangambiri, ZimOnline
September 26, 2007
the special index of articles, analysis and opinion on Constitutional
HARARE - Zimbabwe civic
society leaders will this week meet in Bulawayo to plot resistance
to a government constitutional reform Bill that received backing
from the opposition but which civic groups say is piecemeal and
was drafted without input from all stakeholders.
In a sign of
increasingly hostile division between organised civic society and
the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party,
authoritative sources said the Bulawayo meeting will agree on a
"programme of action" that will among other things include
street protests against Constitution
of Zimbabwe Amendment Number 18.
Analysts have warned
that the widening rift between the MDC and its main allies in civic
society will weaken opposition to President Robert Mugabe, strengthening
the veteran leader's grip on power months ahead of key presidential
and parliamentary elections next year.
"The feeling is
that there was great betrayal by the MDC (in backing the government
bill) so civic groups want to come up with a position," said
a top civic activist, who did not want to be named.
She added: "Street
protests as well as petitioning governments in the SADC (Southern
African Development Community) region not to neglect the concerns
of civic society in their attempts to resolve the Zimbabwean crisis
are some of the strategies we are likely to adopt in Bulawayo."
Lovemore Madhuku, who
is chairman of the National Constitutional (NCA) political pressure
group confirmed the Bulawayo meeting but refused to be drawn into
"It would be proper
to comment after the conference otherwise I would be accused of
pre-emptying the purpose of the conference," said Madhuku.
to the NCA, other civic groups expected to attend the Bulawayo meeting
include the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network, Christian Alliance, Zimbabwe
Congress of Trade Unions, Women's
National Students Union and Crisis
in Zimbabwe Coalition.
Some of the civic groups
boycotted a Monday meeting called by main opposition leader Morgan
Tsvangirai to explain why the MDC endorsed government constitutional
reforms and have threatened to cut ties with the opposition party.
The two secretaries-general
of the divided MDC, Tendai Biti and Welshman Ncube, were initially
included among officials to address the Bulawayo civic conference
but their names were struck off the list of speakers, as differences
between the opposition party and its civic allies appear to be steadily
turning to resentment of each other.
Biti and Ncube were not
immediately available for comment on the matter but an official
of the Tsvangirai wing of the MDC downplayed the widening rift with
are welcome, as long we still believe in taking Zimbabweans out
of this crisis. We, in the MDC, will not be worried," said
Nelson Chamisa, spokesman of the Tsvangirai-led MDC.
The SADC last March tasked
South African President Thabo Mbeki to mediate in Zimbabwe's crisis.
The MDC, which had initially
pushed for an entirely new constitution that would guarantee basic
freedoms and free elections, says it agreed to back the government's
constitutional Bill in the spirit of the SADC-led dialogue and in
the greater interests of resolving Zimbabwe's crisis.
The government's constitutional
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.
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