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Zimbabwe Citizens Groups Meet to Discuss New Constitution

A two-day People's Constitutional Convention aimed at getting civil society organizations together to define and adopt fundamental principles on Zimbabwe's new Constitution kicked off in Harare Friday. Ish Mafundikwa filed this report for VOA from Harare.

McDonald Lewanika, the director of Crisis in Zimbabwe, told VOA the meeting is part of civic society's preparations for a conference to be held by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the New Constitution later this month. "The constitutional reform process has started, it is going ahead and as civic society we need to be able to come together and come up with a nuanced response to what is taking place and if we are going to participate in the all stakeholders conference we need to have caucused positions from sectors which we will take forward to the conference," he said.

Lewanika said the organizations disagree with President Robert Mugabe's statement that Zimbabwe's new constitution should be based on the so-called Kariba Draft. The draft is a blueprint for a new constitution agreed to by negotiators from the president's ZANU-PF party and the Movement for Democratic Change of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. Mr. Tsvangirai agrees with Lewanika that the process should be started afresh.

"What is the purpose of going to consult people if you have a fixed document? Yes, the Kariba document was an agreement between ZANU-PF and the MDC during the negotiations but that is not a people driven process. That Kariba document must be referred to the people if the people accept the proposals that are there, fine," he said.

Mr Tsvangirai's comments indicate a clear split on the constitution-making process between the partners of the unity government. But there are also divergent views among non-government organizations and some declined to attend the convention. Notable among these is the National Constitutional Assembly, which has been pushing for a new constitution for years.