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New Crisis Arises With Breakdown of Zimbabwe's Constitutional Revision Process

  • Thomas Chiripasi

Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF is alleged to have mobilized members of its youth militia along with soldiers and agents of the Central Intelligence Organization to intimidate opponents in Harare

Zimbabwean Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday issued a tough assessment of the constitutional revision process led by a parliamentary committee, which was suspended this week in Harare, the capital, following violence and disruption of public comment sessions. He said the process has not been "people-driven."

Mr. Tsvangirai said he with President Robert Mugabe and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara would meet to discuss the way forward following the episodes of violence which have claimed one life. He denounced what he termed the "militarization" of the constitutional revision process, correspondent Thomas Chiripasi reported.

Political and civil society sources said the death of Crispin Mandizvidza, an activist of Mr. Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change, marked a serious turn in the country’s halting effort to transition to democracy.

Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF is alleged to have mobilized members of its youth militia along with soldiers and agents of the Central Intelligence Organization to intimidate opponents in Harare, the satellite town of Chitungwiza and in other parts of the country in recent days. But ZANU-PF officials have vehemently denied any such effort.

Spokesman Nelson Chamisa of Mr. Tsvangirai's MDC wing said Mandizvidza's death was an alarming development. The MDC member's death following a beating by alleged ZANU-PF militants at a constitutional outreach meeting in the Harare township of Mbare, an MDC stronghold, evoked memories of 2008 election-related violence.

The parliamentary committee in charge of constitutional revision extended the outreach exercise by one week owing to the many disruptions of meetings around the country. Panel co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora said other sessions outside Harare were canceled this week due to violence or logistical problems, in Makoni South and Nyanga, in Manicaland province, as well as in Masvingo and Midlands province and in the Matabeleland region.

Mwonzora told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the resources of the Ministry of Home Affairs will be brought to bear on violence and disruptions in a bit to halt such disturbances. The failure of police in Harare to intervene to halt the violent disruption of outreach meetings has disturbed many observers.

Despite such developments, about 300 children from all of Zimbabwe's 10 provinces gathered Wednesday in the capital for a national consultative meeting on the new constitutional. Sponsored by the U.N. Children's Fund, the meeting was called in response to a disappointing turnout by youth in the national outreach process.

Sylvia Manika reported on the youth consultation, which was to conclude on Thursday.

Earlier Wednesday, Mr. Tsvangirai visited Parliament for the official launch of a digital video system donated by the U.S. government which will allow Zimbabweans to view proceedings over the Internet. House Speaker Lovemore Moyo told Ntungamili Nkomo that the live Web streaming of parliamentary debates will soon begin.

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