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  • New Constitution-making process - Index of articles

  • Monthly report - August - Shadowing the outreach process
    Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Independent Constitution Monitoring Project (ZZZICOMP)
    August 31, 2010

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    1. Introduction

    This monthly report reflects ongoing effort by ZZZICOMP to ensure that the ongoing outreach consultations in Zimbabwe remain within the provisions of Article V1 of the Global Political Agreement [GPA] which clearly states that "it is the fundamental right and duty of the Zimbabwean people to make a constitution by themselves and for themselves - and that the process must be owned and driven by the people and must be inclusive and democratic". Also in resonance with ZZZICOMP information gathering approaches, the Report maintains its micro/grassroots focus, sniffing and analyzing outreach-related issues as they unfold in provinces.

    2. Overview

    Observed outreach inroads

    Though still laden with logistical and financial glitches, the constitution making process is evidently making progress. By end of August, a total of 139 constituencies had been covered, 18 in June, 61 in July and 60 in August with even dates set for consultations in the two metropolitan provinces of Harare and Bulawayo announced.

    Records of outreach meetings continue to increase on a monthly basis. August recorded a total of 1155 outreach meetings, pointing to a 95 % increase from the 591 meetings that were recorded in July.

    The profile of meetings has also remained heavily slanted towards high attendance. A highly attended meeting is where at least a 100 people are in attendance. Of the total of 1155 outreach meetings recorded in August, 74 % [859] were highly attended while 24 % [296] were lowly attended. This trend was also apparent when records were analysed on a weekly basis.

    Records of participants have been increasing cumulatively on a monthly basis since the onset of outreach consultations. By end of August, a total of 368 497 people had reportedly attended outreach consultations throughout the country, 13 % [47 101] in June, 37 % [135 395] in July and 50 % [186 001] in August. Review of the August record point to a 37 % quantum jump from the 135 395 participants recorded in July.

    Equally positive was to note that the gender gap of participants has remained almost blurred since the inception of outreach consultations. Of the 186 001 recorded in the month under review, 51 % [94 529] were males while 49 % [91 472] were females, a trend that also obtained when participant records were analysed either on a weekly or provincial basis.

    Observed challenges

    In spite of these encouraging developments, ZZZICOMP notes with concern that while at macro level the climate is seemingly calm, unfolding scenarios at the outreach consultation fronts tell a different story. In rural communities, outreach violations remain systematically organized and are craftily committed through an array of hard-to detect-strategies that include ferrying of party supporters from one venue to another, posting party youths/supporters at outreach venues, grouping communities under their headmen and conducting of roll calls after meetings, allowing only known party supporters to contribute at meetings, using opening prayers to intimidate and outline party constitutional positions on Talking Points and booing of dissenting views, among others. ZZZICOMP provincial incident reports still refer to dotted incidents in which people were tightly organized along political parties and programmed to speak within defined parameters, with threats of retributive violence for those who stray from expectations.

    The month under review recorded an outreach violation toll of 2359, pointing to an increase from the 1555 that were recorded in July. Of the August record, 30 % [699] were coaching incidents, 27 % [643] political interference, 32 % [547] freedom of speech violations, 20 % [461] harassment and 0.3 % [9] violence.

    The fact that 699 incidents of coaching were recorded in August should be cause for national disquiet, since coaching is indeed many violations rolled in one. Within a single coaching incident are rudiments of harassment, political influence and abuse of freedom of speech. Coaching continues to be invidiously committed under the guise of political party campaigns and also continues to mislead society by creating illusions of " consensus decisions" at outreach meetings when in reality these decisions do not reflect genuine community views. ZZZICOMP reports incessantly refer to scattered incidents in which people were either seen reading from prepared scripts at outreach meetings or presenting rehearsed and straightjacket responses, irrespective of questions being asked by COPAC teams.

    Freedom of speech continues to be covertly suppressed through various means that include verbal threats, intimidation, coaching, assaults, presence of state security agents at outreach meetings, and by misinforming the public that recording equipment will be used to identify individuals who were making contributions that were contrary to declared party positions. The month under review recorded a total toll of 547, showing an increase by 73 % from the 317 recorded in July. Freedom of speech is a constitutional right of every Zimbabwean citizen which accords them the right of voice, that is, the freedom to think as they will and speak as they like, however without compromising other people's rights as private individuals

    Cases of harassment have also remained disturbingly visible especially in the provinces of Mashonaland Central, Masvingo, Mashonaland West and Manicaland. The month under review recorded 461 cases, pointing to an increase from the 323 recorded in July. ZZZICOMP views these developments with grave concern because intimidation has a stalking or shadowing effect on the victim's conscience and is thus an undesirable form of persecution.
    Equally disconcerting were continued reports of outreach meetings that are held even when less than 100 people are in attendance. ZZZICOMP reiterates that meetings held under these circumstances only save to swell records of meetings while distorting outreach outcomes as decisions arrived at under such circumstances should not constitute majority proposals!

    Youth participation levels remain on the low side especially in the provinces of Matabeleland North, Matabeleland South and Midlands. Of the total participants recorded in the period under review, youths accounted for only 22% [40 348], a trend that is consistent with monthly youth participant records since the start of outreach consultations which show 18 % [8 658] in June and 21 % [29 559] in July. Although monthly records suggest that youths participant records are picking up, this has to be viewed with restraint as this could have been inflated by the attendance of school children. This suspicion may not be far off the mark given that most of the high youths attendance records were encountered at venues located at schools and resettlement farming areas.

    Equally disturbing to ZZZICOMP were reports of an increase in meetings that are either disrupted or called off, usually in very unclear circumstances. August recorded a total of 70 cancellations, pointing to an increase from the 55 that were recorded in July.

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