Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, which has been calling for years for a "people-driven constitution" as the prescription for much of what ails the country, has fallen out with the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change, now in majority in parliament, over how the process of rewriting the country's constitution should proceed.
On Thursday, MDC lawmakers largely boycotted an NCA meeting called to brief members of parliament on civil society views on how to overhaul the constitution. On Wednesday, NCA members stayed away from a meeting called by Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga of the MDC to solicit input from various stakeholders.
Sources in the National Constitutional Assembly said only four members of parliament from the MDC formation led by Arthur Mutambara attended the civic group's Wednesday briefing, with MPs of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's larger MDC formation entirely absent.
The mutual no-shows signaled polarization on the question of whether the new constitution should emanate from society at large or be mainly drafted by the politicians.
The NCA, backed by most civil society groups, wants a “people driven” constitution drafted by a convention or commission and approved by a referendum, whereas the unity government proposes to move the process through the halls of parliament, with civic consultation.
For perspective on the constitutional debate, reporter Patience Rusere of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to NCA National Director Earnest Mudzengi and political analyst John Makumbe, a professor at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.
Mudzengi argued that Zimbabwe's politicians cannot be allowed to become the referees of their own game, insisting that broad participation in the process is essential.