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  • Dark clouds hover over constitution making process
    Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition
    February 03, 2010

    While the Parliament Select Committee, which is spearheading the constitution making process, is set to deploy teams for the outreach meetings, a dark cloud hovers over the success of the process owing to the arrests and intimidation of Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) supporters in mostly peri-urban and rural areas. According to a member of COPAC, the committee is expected to gazette names of teams carrying out the outreach program today, 3 February 2010. A total of 630 people are carrying out the outreach over a period of 65 days countrywide.

    Although the process is witnessing significant progress following almost two weeks of uncertainty owing to disagreements between the political parties, arrests of MDC supporters on trumped up charges and terror campaigns by suspected state agents, members of the uniformed forces and ZANU PF supporters in mostly peri-urban and rural areas continue. According to reports received by The Coalition, the terror campaigns are aimed at ensuring the adoption of the Kariba Draft constitution or maintenance of the current constitution, amended 19 times over a period of 23 years. These reports could ultimately result in a skewed outcome.

    On Saturday 30 January 2010, 62 members of the MDC were arrested under the Public Order and Security Act (POSA) for allegedly holding an unsanctioned meeting at the party's district office in Mount Darwin. This was despite the fact that the meeting was internal and thus, did not require a clearance. Although 50 of the 62 supporters were released on the same day, 12 remain in police custody at Bindura Police Station and were scheduled to appear in court yesterday, 2 February 2010. In Binga, on Tuesday 26 January 2010, eight members of the Morgan Tsvangirai led party were arrested and later released for convening a meeting without police clearance. As in the Mount Darwin case, the meeting was an internal gathering where members of the political party in the area were discussing constitutional matters.

    An independent constitution monitoring project, ZZZICOMP comprised of the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) released a report which stated that there are at least eight documented and confirmed cases of assault, torture and other forms of intimidation perpetrated against MDC supporters by suspected State agents and ZANU PF supporters in Mudzi, Kuwadzana, Domboshawa, Chimbondora, Harare, Cheramwiwa and Mashonaland Central. The report also mentions that there are some politicians holding meetings suggesting answers to what they say are the talking points which the Parliament Select Committee will use during the outreach phase and demanding that people adopt the Kariba Draft constitution. This is allegedly happening in areas such as Matabeleland North, Chitungwiza, Mashonaland West, Mashonaland East, Midlands and Masvingo.

    According to a source in the Eastern border town of Mutare, reports of intimidation and threats of violence against MDC supporters are escalating in the Manicaland province particularly in Chimanimani East (from Cashel valley and Nedziwa) and Buhera North. ZANU PF supporters and some members of the uniformed forces are allegedly hosting meetings telling people not to participate in the constitution making process unless they are advocating for either the Kariba draft constitution or the continued use of the current constitution. At the meetings, participants are allegedly receiving information that the MDC is advocating for 'inhumane' rights such as abortion and homosexuality regardless of the fact that both rights hinge on the respect of Freedom of Choice and thus should not be classified as 'inhumane' rights. The leaders of these groups are also threatening villagers with assault and ex- communication from their areas if they take part in the constitution making process.

    These developments in the political arena are an indication of ZANU PF's determination to ensure that the envisaged constitution suffers a still birth. The former ruling party continues to use uniformed forces and the police to intimidate the people of Zimbabwe giving credence to the argument presented by The Coalition during a discussion on Thursday 28 January 2010 that although ZANU PF lost the 2008 election to the MDC, the political party retains significant power over MDC as they are in control of the security forces.

    There is thus need for civil society and Zimbabweans at large to advocate for institutional and legislative reforms during the constitution making process for a democratic constitution to come out. As long as repressive laws such as POSA still exist and security forces remain under ZANU PF control, the outcome of the constitution could be pre-determined by President Mugabe's party.

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