Outreach activities could be derailed

zimbabwe_map The people must be assured of protection from the vandals if they are to freely express their views

Thank God the constitutional reform process is now well and truly underway. The completion of the training of thematic committees and outreach teams last week means that the trained people can now be deployed to the various parts of the country to consult the people regarding what they would like included in the foundational law of the land.

The Parliamentary Select Committee on the Constitution (Copac) has budgeted some 65 days for these consultations. There will, however be numerous logistical hurdles that will need to be overcome if the outreach meetings are to effectively cover all possible areas in the country. For example the road network in some parts of the country has deteriorated to such a degree that some parts of this country will obviously be inaccessible to the outreach teams.

The people living in such areas have as much a right to participate in the constitutional reform process as some of us living in pot-holed but still accessible Harare, Bulawayo and parts of Gweru and Mutare. There are parts of both Mutare and Gweru that are fast becoming inaccessible due to the frightful condition of the roads in those areas.

There are still numerous threats to the constitutional reform process, and some of them became manifest during the recently completed training exercise at the Harare International Conference Centre. In spite of the fact that Copac had dutifully published the official list of the delegates that had been selected to participate in the thematic committees and outreach teams, some mischievous elements from one (dying and desperate) political party had brought along more than 300 hoodlums and they demanded that these people also be accredited as official delegates and participants in the training. Copac officials resisted this move for a while but in the end they had no choice but to accredit the hired hands. Since each delegate was entitled to more than $200 allowance, this development has had serious financial implications for Copac and the constitutional reform process. It is not clear what the political party that hired these additional persons hoped to achieve. Perhaps the party thought that there would be voting during the training process and it therefore hoped to win the contest each time something was voted on.

It is clear that the desperate political party will expect its hired hoodlums to participate in the outreach activities throughout the country and influence what the people will say. Copac must resist this move by strictly adhering to the published list of the selected members of the thematic committees and the outreach teams. Any departure from that agreed list of participants will have negative implications for the reform process.

Further, there are numerous reports indicating that in some rural areas, people are being told by Zanu (PF) activists that they must tell the thematic committees and outreach teams that they want only the Kariba Draft constitution. This must also be rejected by the outreach teams since these poor people are being intimidated to make such demands.

It will not be surprising to find out that some people who will attend the outreach meetings will be reluctant to openly and frankly express their views on most of the issues that will be asked of them for fear of victimization by the usual suspects. The people must be assured of protection from the vandals if they are to freely express their views on constitutional reforms. For most progressive Zimbabweans, the constitutional reform process has now reached an irreversible stage, but we need to stay on guard. The enemies of democracy, freedom and civil liberties are going to try and wreck the reform process even at this stage.

Post published in: Opinions

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