A process to consult Zimbabweans about what they want in a new constitution has finally begun. 

President Robert Mugabe and his ZANU-PF party have finally allowed the process of crafting a new constitution to begin, nearly a year behind schedule.

Late Wednesday, Zimbabwe's Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who leads the Movement for Democratic Change, told political and civil rights leaders that nothing would stop Zimbabweans from forming a new constitution that leads fresh elections.

"The lesson to be learned from the process thus far is that those that resist change and the right of people to determine their own future may attempt to delay the democratic process, but they will never try derailing it all together.  The will of the people cannot be denied and neither can their voice be silenced," Tsvangirai said.

President Robert Mugabe said he hopes the constitution writing goes well.  The president said he and  ZANU-PF have firm ideas about what should be in the new constitution and hinted at his priorities.

He said the previous ZANU-PF government had changed the constitution to allow about 90 percent of white-owned land to be nationalized, which he said was done in the "national interest."

He also spoke about provisions in other countries protecting the rights of homosexuals.

"What is happening in regard to the issue of sex in Britain, the gays, where a man can be a woman, and a woman can be a man now.  May the Lord take care of us and avoid our thinking to be twisted by what is happening elsewhere," Mr. Mugabe said.

Now, hundreds of people selected by the three political parties which signed the political agreement in September 2008 will go out into the countryside to find out what people want included in a new constitution.

The outreach program will be followed by negotiations between the three parties.  If the parties agree on the new constitution, it will then be put to voters in a referendum.

After that, in theory, Zimbabwe's unity government will end as fresh elections will be held.

Veteran Zimbabwe political commentator Brian Raftopoulos said Thursday that although the outreach program is behind schedule, the effort is still a major step forward because the new constitution is a major component of the political agreement.

He said there will be many compromises in the new constitution, and the  three main political parties' issues will be reflected in it.

Raftopoulos said there had been slow progress in fulfilling key sections of the political agreement.  But, he added, positive steps have been taken recently, including the licensing of new independent newspapers.

The first steps of the constitution writing process in 2009 ended after disputes erupted between rival delegates.

Zimbabwe's present constitution was drawn up before independence from Britain and has been amended 19 times in 30 years.