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Zimbabwe Parliament May Tap Outsider To Head Constitutional  Reform Panel

Zimbabwean Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said Wednesday that the country's parliament is considering appointing a non-lawmaker to head the select committee that will lead the process of drafting a new constitution.

Matinenga told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the process should extend beyond parliament, noting that appointing a parliamentary outsider to the key position would reinforce inclusiveness in formulating a new basic document.

The so-called Global Political Agreement entered into by the former ruling ZANU-PF party and the now-majority Movement for Democratic Change, of which Matinenga is a member, states that constitutional revision is to be led by parliament in consultation with civil society.

But civil society organizations led by the National Constitutional Assembly have fiercely opposed this arrangement, arguing that the process should not be led by parliament but by an independent commission constituted so as to represent all viewpoints.

Non-governmental sources said however that internal divisions have sprung up in a number of civic organizations as to whether to participate in a process led by parliament or to line up behind the National Constitutional Assembly as many have already done.

Students Solidarity Trust Coordinator Masimba Nyamanhindi said Wednesday that his group has decided to support the NCA position on constitutional reform.

Elsewhere, however, the Christian Alliance, an inter-denominational church group constituted in 2005 to provide humanitarian aid, has endorsed the parliament-led process.

NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told a press conference in Harare on Wednesday that his organization will campaign for a "No" vote in a constitutional referendum likely to be held next year should the government not come around on a greater role for civil society.

More news from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...