News / Africa

Drafting of New Constitution to Begin in Zimbabwe

The charter is a major step toward new elections and ending the political crisis that followed controversial balloting in 2008.

Scene at stakeholders' conference in July 2009 to prepare for Zimbabwe's constitutional process
Scene at stakeholders' conference in July 2009 to prepare for Zimbabwe's constitutional process

Multimedia

Audio
Scott Bobb

The formal process of consulting the Zimbabwean people on a new constitution is to begin next week.  But civic groups for weeks have been training activists to educate communities about the new charter and how to propose ideas for it.

Zimbabwe Human Rights Association coordinator Olivia Gumbo
Zimbabwe Human Rights Association coordinator Olivia Gumbo

The coordinator at the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association, Olivia Gumbo, says her group wants a people-driven document.

"We are talking about the right to participate in the governance issues, the right to vote, the right to speak out your view and also the freedom of association," she said.

Minister for Constitutional Affairs Eric Matinenga is to administer the process.  He says 70 teams of 25 people each will hold popular consultations in each of the country's 210 voting districts.

"We are in the process of bringing into place a supreme law which we can all be proud of and which is going to govern us in a way which is different to what we have experienced," he said.

The teams will report their findings to 17 commissions specializing in a wide range of issues, such as human rights, elections and the justice system.

These commissions are then to draft the document, which will be submitted to the people in a referendum.

A new constitution is part of a power-sharing agreement between President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF Party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

The accord brought the two former rivals together in a unity government last February.  It was meant to end months of confrontation after controversial and sometimes violent elections in 2008.

The new constitution is to lead to fresh elections within two years.

But the process has been delayed by partisan antagonism and a lack of funds.

A stakeholders' conference in July to prepare for the process was disrupted by unruly delegates and was only held after the leaders intervened.

Differences have emerged through the years over various proposed drafts.  The country is still using the Lancaster House Agreement adopted prior to independence nearly 30 years ago.

A draft constitution backed by ZANU-PF was defeated in 2000 by MDC supporters and civic groups.

ZANU-PF and the MDC two years ago drafted another document during meetings in Kariba, northern Zimbabwe.  The MDC has since distanced itself from the Kariba Draft saying it is flawed.

But ZANU-PF's secretary for administration, Didymus Mutasa, says the Kariba Draft is the only way forward.

"The Kariba Draft is work done by members of the MDC and ZANU," he explained.  "And so we regard that as a piece of work that has originated from Zimbabweans of different political persuasions and so we feel that is what we should go on with."

The National Constitutional Assembly civic group objects to all of the drafts.  Its director, Lovemore Madhuku, says the process is flawed and that input is needed from all sectors of society.

"We do not expect that a process dominated by selfish politicians who are not moving because they are not agreeing on what they want to get.  The chance of that producing a constitution that is fairly reasonable is very low," he said.

He says his group, backed by trade and student unions, will likely campaign against passage of such a document in the referendum.  If successful they will then launch a new, grassroots-based process.

Zimbabwe University political science professor Eldred Masunungure says the long-standing political rivalries are a reason for the disputes.

"The outcome of the constitution-making will fundamentally change the political landscape," said Masunungure.  "It will mean loss of power for some and gaining power for others.  That is why it is such a friction-ridden process."

Activists like Gumbo say the political violence that accompanied the elections two years ago is still fresh in many people's minds and poses another obstacle.

"People are saying why are they coming to us with the constitution issue while we still have some wounds which need bandages.  That is why we are also talking about the national healing process," she added.

The power-sharing accord calls for a national healing-and-reconciliation program, but this has stalled because of a lack of funds and, some say, political will.

As a result, some analysts believe the constitutional process will take a long time.

A recent poll indicates many people are afraid that new elections will bring more violence, but most say they still want them held within two years.

You May Like

UN Watchdog Urges Israel to Probe Possible Gaza War Crimes

More than 2,100 Palestinians, most of them civilians, were killed in a 51-day war in Gaza, along with 67 Israeli soldiers and six civilians in Israel More

New Kenyan 'Thin SIMs' Poised to Transform African Mobile Money

Equity's new technology is approved in African nation for one-year trial, though industry leader Safaricom says thin SIMs could lead to data theft and fraud More

Solar's Future Looks Brighter

New technology and dropping prices are contributing to a surge in solar power More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid