Rights groups accused ZANU PF of coaching villagers what to say and said in some areas Mugabes party had appointed some of the villagers to speak on behalf of the rest. The selected spokespeople were reading from prepared notes when responding to questions by constitutional outreach teams, according to rights groups.
One of the countrys leading rights groups, ZimRights, said its representatives attending outreach meetings at Matepatepa Country Club and Number One Play Center in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province observed suspected ZANU PF supporters reading from scripts written for them by their party.
ZimRights said: Both meetings were characterised by high levels of tension between opposing party members. That participants had to rely on party written scripts to make contributions is a serious cause for concern given that a constitutional making process must be non-partisan and people-driven.
Clearly in this case people are being denied a right to freely air out their views.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CZC) that brings together several civil rights and pro-democracy groups said at one meeting at Sikosana primary school in Makonde district in Mashonaland West province only five people were making contributions with the rest of the more than 1 000 villagers present sitting in silence.
There was no debate at all, those that participated were referring to position papers that had been distributed by their parties with the rest of the people merely acting as cheerleaders, the CZCZ said in a report.
The exercise to gather the views and ideas of the public they want included in a proposed new constitution began last week. But there is mounting doubt on the credibility of the outreach programme, amid reports of serious administrative glitches, resurgent political violence and intimidation largely blamed on ZANU PF militants and the security forces.
ZANU PF and the armed forces want the new charter based on a controversial draft constitution known as the Kariba Draft prepared by Mugabes party and the then opposition MDC parties of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his Deputy Arthur Mutambara.
The 2007 Kariba Draft — that the MDC parties now oppose — retains a strong presidency and allows Mugabe to stand for another two terms in office.
ZANU PF denies that its supporters are committing violence and intimidation, while the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) that is leading the reforms yesterday vowed to press ahead with the exercise saying it was making progress despite the teething problems it had faced.
Although there were challenges when the process started, there has been some progress in areas where meetings have been held, COPAC joint-chairman Paul Munyaradzi Mangwana told journalist at a press briefing in Harare on Thursday.
Mangwana, who is a member of ZANU PF, said logistical problems that had seen meetings canceled were being addressed with stationery and recording equipment delivered to the provinces for use by the outreach teams.
But Mangwana said the COPAC was still battling for resources to keep the reforms going.
One of our major challenges continue to be that of funding, said Mangwana. We still have limited resources and this is what is hampering our process. We have brought this to the attention of the government and donors. We are currently working on a supplementary budget.
The cash-strapped coalition government is unable to raise resources for the exercise and is banking on the United Nations Development Programme to mobilise funds from international donors.
Douglass Mwonzora, another of the three COPAC chairmen, said the commission would review the performance of the secretariat to try and improve management of the reforms.
Unconfirmed reports suggested the commission might dismiss the secretariat it blames for poor management of the outreach exercise.
Mwonzora, a member of Tsvangirais MDC party, said: We are currently reviewing the outreach and everything associated with it, ranging from preparations to duties of the COPAC staff to find out what actual went wrong.
The proposed new constitution is part of reforms agreed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara that are meant to entrench democracy in Zimbabwe.
The coalition government is expected to call fresh elections once a new constitution is in place although there is no legal requirement for it to immediately do so.
Zimbabweans hope a new constitution will guarantee human rights, strengthen the role of Parliament, as well as guaranteeing civil, political and media freedoms.Post published in: News