Zimbabwe lawyers publish analysis of COPAC draft charter

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) have published a “Summarised Analysis” of the COPAC draft constitution, saying Zimbabweans need to educate themselves on its content in order to make informed decisions when they vote at the upcoming referendum.

The Lawyers’ analysis comes in the wake of a decision by COPAC’s management committee to hold the 2nd All-Stakeholders Conference sometime in October. This leeaves very little time for the public to familiarize themselves with the issues in the draft constitution, and COPAC has not conducted any educational meetings.

The lawyers group has now said it wants to help people to decide whether the COPAC draft is better than the current constitution, whether it requires more improvement and whether it will have a positive impact on the country moving forward.

Lawyer David Hofisi told SW Radio Africa that the analysis was part of an ongoing process that started before the COPAC outreach programme was launched.

He said: “A lot of people who fancy themselves to be political commentators have been very quick to appear either on television or radio programmes pointing out what in their view this constitution says in a manner that was neither comprehensive or holistic.”

Asked whether the COPAC draft reflects the views of the people of Zimbabwe, Hofisi said the differences between the political parties within COPAC made it difficult for them to speak with one voice. The result is a negotiated document representing the divergent views of the three political parties.

Hofisi added that there is not enough time for COPAC alone to educate the public on what the draft constitution says. No written copies had been widely distributed, especially to those in remote areas, and the parties have invested more energy in contesting each other.

“There is a real danger now that that the 2nd All Stakeholders Conference may be a purely, purely political exercise that may implode into violence over the radically different position that some parties hold regarding the contents of the draft,” Hofisi said.

The lawyer expressed deep concern that the views to be presented by stakeholders at the Conference will be documented, debated and considered by the same three parties who make up the COPAC committees. The resulting draft will then be debated in parliament, by legislators who also sit on COPAC committees.

Meanwhile, police in the Mashonaland Central district of Shamva are reported to have violently disrupted a meeting organized by MDC-T members, who had planned to update villagers on developments in the constitution making process.

According to the Crisis Coalition, four policemen led by Constable Mutinha from Chakonda police station disrupted the meeting last Saturday and ordered participants to vacate the premises. The police also threatened to unleash dogs and teargas on them, causing many to run to safety. – SW Radio Africa News

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