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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • MDC mulls pulling out of constitutional outreach
    Lance Guma, SW Radio Africa
    July 23, 2010

    In a hard hitting interview, party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said it was now necessary for the leadership to meet.

    Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's MDC party will have to meet and decide whether to continue participating in the current constitutional outreach exercise which has been marred by incidents of violence and intimidation. In a hard hitting interview, party spokesman Nelson Chamisa said it was now necessary for the leadership to meet and 'say under the circumstances what is our continued participation in this process. What is the end and what is the product?'

    He told Newsreel they were receiving reports from their structures, and even from ZANU PF supporters, complaining that they were being frog marched into torture bases, and indoctrinated on what to say before being taken to outreach meetings.

    'This is very ugly a picture, very disturbing a trend and very discouraging a pattern. When one looks at what has been happening across the whole country it's not as if people are being allowed to express themselves.' He likened what was happening to the siege mentality that accompanied the bloody election violence of 2008, when Mugabe and his ZANU PF party lost elections and sent out army units to murder over 500 opposition supporters in retribution.

    So will the MDC pull out from the outreach?

    'Look I can't do that, I have no power to make those kind of alternatives or permutations. The leadership will look at these issues forensically and surgically and come up with a position'. He said people are being turned into robots and this had made the outreach a farce.

    The constitutional outreach program, meant to gather people's views on the new constitution, has exposed the deep political polarization and intolerance that still exists between ZANU PF and MDC supporters. Since the program resumed this week, after a week long break, tension, friction and shouting matches have characterized most of the meetings. Even signaling your intention to contribute a view by raising a hand, has now been politicized by the participants.

    When MDC supporters want to contribute to debate, they raise their hands as any other person would do. And here lies the problem. An open palm is a gesture linked to the MDC party symbol. In retaliation, ZANU PF supporters have resorted to raising their hands- fists clenched- a style made popular by Mugabe when sloganeering.

    Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said it was clear there is still much animosity between supporters of ZANU PF and the MDC. He said these incidents, and many others being observed at the meetings, are clear indicators of the dark cloud of political polarization and intolerance characterizing the political terrain in the country.

    'At times you witness shouting matches when people try to put across their party positions. This is happening in meetings mainly in rural areas where deep mistrust among the supporters still exist, Muchemwa said. He said the program is beset with administrative problems, ranging from lack of accommodation to shortages of funds for outreach teams. Some COPAC members threatened to down tools this week when they failed to get their allowances.

    'There's a serious problem out there and COPAC seems to be failing to cope with the crisis. Some people are going hungry because they are not being paid their allowances,' Muchemwa added.

    There are a total of 70 outreach teams, totaling 700 people, deployed countrywide. They will spend two months gathering the views of the public on the new constitution which will replace the negotiated 1979 Lancaster House constitution.

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