2 300 violations in one month

JOHANNESBURG A coalition of Zimbabwean civil society groups says it has recorded more than 2 300 cases of human rights violations during public hearings on a new constitution last month alone - casting further doubt on the credibility of the reforms.

The coalition monitoring constitutional reforms and known by the acronym, ZZZICOMP, said abuses that include assault, intimidation, suppression of the freedoms of speech and expression among others totaled 2 359 in the month of August, a rise of more than 50 percent on the 1 555 incidents recorded in July.

The ZZZICOMP brings together three of Zimbabwes top pro-democracy groups the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Zimbabwe Peace Project and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights in a joint-effort to monitor constitutional reforms and evaluate whether they were democratic and the outcome a true reflection of the peoples wishes.

The month under review recorded an outreach violation toll of 2359 . an increase from the 1555 that were recorded in July, the ZZZICOMP said in its latest report on constitutional reforms released last week.

Verbal threats, intimidation, coaching, assaults, presence of state security agents at outreach meetings, perceptions that recording equipment will be used to identify individuals making contributions, among others continue to restrict citizen voice at outreach meetings, it said.

Zimbabwe is writing a new constitution as part of reforms agreed by Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara to strengthen democracy in the country.

But the exercise to gather public views to be put in the constitution has been marred by reports of violence and widespread intimidation blamed on Zanu (PF) supporters wanting to pressure Zimbabweans to support a new constitution that will not bar Mugabe from standing for re-election, while banning the post of Prime Minister.

Public hearings had to be called off in Harare and the nearby dormitory town of Chitungwiza after violence broke out during meetings more two weeks ago leaving at least one person dead and scores of others injured.

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