Violence Likely At the Second Stakeholders Conference: CSOs

As the tension around the constitution making exercise mounts – especially around the issues of devolution of power - Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) have expressed fear that the Second All stakeholders Conference set for late April or early May could turn violent.

CSOs challenged Copac to put up measures to secure a violence free conference.

Copac has announced that the conference to discuss the draft of the new constitution – to be subjected to a referendum later this year – will be held in Harare in May, but will be preceded by provincial conferences.

Addressing members of the CSOs at a public meeting organised by Bulawayo Agenda last weekend, the Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda (Macra) director, Effie Ncube, said there is a likely possibility of mayhem at the conference in May.

“From the fact that the conference will be held in the context of looming elections, there is likely to be political intolerance. Copac will have to engage political parties because it is important to secure their agreement that the event will be a non-violent function.

“They will have to get an agreement from Zanu PF, MDC-T and MDC. They will also have to get agreement from the police to provide non partisan security at the function,” he said.

There was mayhem, bordering on violence, during the first stakeholders conference in 2010 as the parties clashed on ideological grounds.

The National Association of Non governmental Organisations (Nango) Western Region chairperson, Godwin Phiri, said the tensions around the constitution making process meant that the conference is likely to be violent.

“We are aware that tensions are high in the country around the constitution making process. We hope that there will be maturity by all political parties. Based on what happened in the first all stakeholders’ conference, we hope that political parties won’t bring partisan issues into the conference,” he said.

Copac has announced that it will have provincial conferences in order to reduce the number of people attending the bigger conference in Harare.

Mwonzora said, during the provincial conferences, stakeholders will have an opportunity to interrogate the draft constitution.

“This has been necessitated by the fact that we want to reduce the number of delegates coming for the second all stakeholders’ conference. Instead of 4 000 we will only have 2 500 delegates and we will meet other stakeholders in their provinces,” he said.

Mwonzora said a small crowd at the second all stakeholders conference will be manageable to minimise chances of mayhem that characterised the first all stakeholders’ conference.

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