Hope reignited as Zimbabwe constitution making finally kicks off

10:06, June 18, 2010      

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Zimbabweans are looking forward to airing their views on the new constitution following the launch of the outreach program by Zimbabwean leaders in Harare on Wednesday this week.

The outreach program, which is meant to gather people's views on the new constitution, is expected to last about two months and people in the country are cherishing this once in a lifetime opportunity to define and shape their future and that of future generations.

Riddled by false starts since July last year owing to squabbles over the composition of the outreach teams, talking points to shape the hearings, donor funding and other issues, the utmost assurance was given on Wednesday when President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara appeared together and jointly launched the outreach program.

A total of 70 outreach teams will be deployed countrywide on Monday next week for at least 65 days to gather views of the public on the new constitution which will replace the negotiated 1979 Lancaster House constitution.

To many, this is the critical stage of the constitution making process and Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga even acknowledged that at the launch.

"We are now at the critical stage, the outreach stage. This is the stage in my view which makes this particular process particularly people driven and all inclusive," he said in his preamble.

Media practitioner Felix Samuriwo could not hide his joy on the final prospect of Zimbabwe having a home grown constitution.

"I am very much excited about it (launch of outreach program) because it gives us a chance, a once in a life time chance to write a new constitution for Zimbabwe since it got independence from Britain in 1980," Samuriwo said.

To him, this was Zimbabwe's rare and very own chance to redefine its future, discard the Lancaster House constitution because "it was not a constitution but an agreement which led to the independence of our country."

"So this is our very chance, the only chance we have to address the future of generations to come," he said.

At the launch, Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara spoke about the need for people to unite, exercise tolerance and shun violence during the outreach program.

The leaders made an impassioned plea for everyone to ensure a conducive environment for people to freely air their views prevailed. Mugabe said all the leaders in the inclusive government are committed to ensuring peace, security and safety of people during the outreach program. "At the top we are agreed that there should be no violence. People should talk freely, yes you may differ but let us sometimes agree to differ," he said.

Tsvangirai urged the police to oversee safety and security of the outreach program in a professional and non-partisan manner, emphasizing that intimidation of people to influence outcome of the process will not be tolerated.

"In this process there can be no reason for violence, no reason or excuse for violence. There will be no tolerance of violence against the people," he said.

Mutambara emphasized the need for free expression and participation in the process, saying this is vital to ensure the country writes a credible and legitimate constitution.

The leaders are wary of the potential violence that may hinder the process, hence they have complemented each other's voice in calling for peace and tolerance during the period.

Already, there have been reports of violence and intimidation, with influential functionaries of some political parties seeking to force through set party positions as opposed to independent thinking.

There are salient principles on the constitution that people are expected to debate during the outreach program and these include the nature of government, the organs of government and State and the type of Parliament they want.

People are also expected to discuss the various human rights and freedoms they want enshrined in the new constitution, including the contentious gay rights.

Mugabe's detest for homosexuality is well known, having previously described gays and lesbians as "worse than dogs and pigs".

At the launch, Mugabe said while Zimbabwe faithfully complied with the Lancaster House constitution despite its apparent flaws, time has now come for Zimbabweans to write their own constitution that asserts their national sovereignty and independence.

But others warned there is need for Zimbabweans to avoid approaching the constitution making process in a partisan manner.

"This is not for you and me or for Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara. This is for generations and generations to come."

"People must be educated on the importance of this constitution because if not taken seriously it may reverse the gains made after independence and we end up betraying our fallen heroes," Samuriwo said.

The new constitution is being written in line with Article 6 of the Global Political Agreement that was signed by Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara in 2008 and which led to the formation of an inclusive government in February last year.

This followed absence of an outright winner in the 2008 legislative elections and the disputed presidential election.

According to the GPA, the new government is to write a new constitution in 18 months followed by elections.

But squabbles between Mugabe, Tsvangirai and Mutambara's parties over the composition of the outreach teams, talking points to shape the hearings, donor funding and other issues delayed the program which is now eight months behind schedule.

Mugabe has since pointed out that Zimbabwe may go for elections next year with or without a new constitution.

If the new constitution comes to fruition, Zimbabweans will at least marvel at it as one of their greatest achievements in the history of post independent Zimbabwe.

Source: Xinhua

(Editor:李牧(实习))

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