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Zimbabwe's Constitutional Outreach Program Ends

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe delivers a speech ( Aug 2010 file photo)

Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe delivers a speech ( Aug 2010 file photo)

In Zimbabwe, a significant portion of the multi-party political agreement that brought the power-sharing government to office last February mandated the people spell out what they wanted in a new constitution. Part of the political agreement was concluded Sunday in Harare.

Now in a power-sharing government with long-time rival, ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change says one of its supporters was attacked Saturday during a constitutional outreach meeting in Harare.

MDC says the man, Jonsaya Manyere, was stabbed and is fighting for his life in the hospital. Police Assistant-Commissioner Wayne Bvudzijena says the attack on Manyere took place more than an hour after the meeting had ended and after the public and police had dispersed. He said the injured man will not give police any information about his attacker. The Harare outreach programs were postponed several weeks ago after a Movement for Democratic Change supporter was killed. But most of last weekend's meetings, held in several places around Zimbabwe's capital were peaceful.

About 4,000 outreach meetings were held around the country in the past three months. Public watchdog Veritas says more than 700,000 people have attended.

Some people believe attendance was low and say there were logistical and financial disruptions to the enormous project. The MDC says ZANU-PF supporters disrupted some of the meetings.

Constatine Chipadza, who attended a meeting on Saturday, says he is worried about the low attendance by MDC supporters at these gatherings.

"On the constitutional process we have got a problem of apathy, not only in Harare, but all over the country. The Movement for Democratic Change is not taking this thing seriously. Only ZANU-PF is taking it seriously. This thing needed to be advertised properly," Chipadza said.

Isaac Gumbo, 61, is enthusiastic about the outreach program. He says the meeting he attended in a western Harare suburb was small and peaceful.

"The attendance was average in terms of the place and the atmosphere was very conducive for the meeting. There was no intimidation," Gumbo said. "All people from different parties were able to express their view. Probably the attendance was not so huge because if the police are there the atmosphere becomes tense."

Organizers say the vast number of documents generated by public discussions will take several months to analyze. After that, most political analysts believe a draft constitution will be negotiated between the Movement for Democratic Change and ZANU-PF.

June 30 of next year has been set as a tentative date for a referendum on the draft constitution.

President Robert Mugabe recently said that the inclusive government ends next February when it is two-years old, but observers say the political agreement that is the blueprint for this process does not spell out its life span.

The constitution, which was amended to allow the unity government, says Mr. Mugabe cannot dissolve parliament and call fresh elections without the consent of MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai.