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  • Harare report - October 30-31
    Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) Independent Constitution Monitoring Project (ZZZICOMP)
    November 12, 2010

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    The Report trails constitutional outreach consultations conducted in the metropolitan province of Harare between 30 and 31 October, activities that were resumed after having been suspended in September in the wake of inter-party violence between the supporters of the two main rival parties, ZANU PF and the MDC T.

    Against this backdrop, ZZZICOMP applauds COPAC for ensuring public safety by deploying police to all outreach venues. Although the presence of heavily armed and stern-looking police details may have created a somewhat intimidating, subdued, somber and agitated atmosphere at outreach venues, the semblance of sanity and peace that prevailed enabled COPAC to successfully hold 51 of the targeted 52 outreach meetings, with only one meeting that was scheduled for 31 October at Gwinyai Government School in Ward 8 of Mbare of Harare Central called off due to poor turnout.

    However, behind the smokescreen of calmness, was a process that remained under the tight grip of party politics and an operational environment that was hardly inclusive and tolerant to participants with dissenting views. The process was only inclusive as long as participants were expressing views that resonated with the dominant political group at the venue.

    At outreach meetings that include St John Retreat Primary School in Ward 1 of Mbare, St Peters Kubatana Primary School in Ward 14 of Mbare in Harare South, Maguta Secondary School in Ward 1 of Epworth, Seke 2 High in Ward 20 of Chitungwiza Constituency, Tanganhamo Primary School in Ward 7 of Zengeza constituency, Shingai Primary School in Ward 2 of St Mary's constituency, Kambuzuma High One in Ward 14 of Kambuzuma constituency, Greystone Park Primary School in Ward 8 of Harare North; the political mood remained brittle, temperamental and visibly polarised along party lines. Reports refer to several incidents in which those expressing dissenting views were booed, verbally threatened, heckled, silenced or even force-marched out of outreach venues by the youths and supporters of dominant groups at venues while the police and COPAC teams watched helplessly. Contributions at most meetings reflected outright hate, mockery, personalisation of national issues, and shocking levels of political, racial and tribal tolerance-with some even carrying bizarre proposals to kill those who support sanctions or act as fronts for white people. The net picture is that had it not been the presence of heavily armed and stern-looking police details at some of these meetings, the risk of a replay of the ugly scenes of September hovered menacingly in the air.

    Also vividly emerging from the Harare outreach consultations is an overwhelmingly ZANU PF-driven process-with proposal that are heavily skewed towards the now well-known ZANU PF position on the constitution. At St Peters Kubatana Primary School in Ward 4 of Mbare, the process was overwhelmingly controlled by ZANU PF that those who dare express views outside the framework of ZANU PF were reportedly cautioned for "provoking others" or their views dismissed as "no point" by the partisan Honourable MP [name withheld] of the COPAC Team. Thus, despite some effort by COPAC teams to ensure openness, debate remained muted and overly exclusive to other stakeholders.

    In fact, the Harare outreach meetings were at best miniatures of political rallies with party supporters instead of ordinary citizens as participants. At most outreach meetings, people were organized and seated as distinct groups, and expressing views laden with political connotations. In most cases, what passed as "unanimously agreed proposals" was largely one-party-dominated and engineered proposals in which party supporters masqueraded as participants were speaking from rehearsed and earlier-agreed positions of their political parties.

    It is also instructive to note that while an attendance profile of 46 "highly attended" and 5 "lowly attended" cases is generally consistent with the usually knowledgeable, attentive, and highly participant nature of urban communities- close analysis of proceedings at most Harare outreach meetings calls for caution as scenarios suggest high possibilities of party-coerced gatherings. This is even more suspect as the bulk of these high attendances were reported political hotbeds areas that include St John Retreat Primary School in Ward 1 in Mbare of Harare South which had 1220 participants in attendance, Hopley Clinic in Ward 1 of Harare South where 708 participants turned up, St Peters Kubatana Primary School in Ward 4 of Mbare of Harare South where there were 400 people in attendance, Glen View New Hall in Ward 32 of Glen View South where 393 were in attendance, Hatcliffe Open Space in Ward 42 of Harare North where 741 people turned up, Harare High School in Ward 3 of Mbare in Harare South where 350 participants turned up. Incident of bussing of party supporters were also rampant at these venues. Equally suspect at these venues was the high incidence of "unanimity" cases on most thematic issues.

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