The scheduled launch next week of the public outreach phase of Zimbabwe's constitutional revision process appeared to be in question on Wednesday as legislators of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party threatened to boycott the exercise if their demand for an increase in daily expense allowances is not met.
Responding, the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai accused the lawmakers of being mercenary and at the same time trying to derail the constitutional process.
ZANU-PF legislators told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that they want their daily expense budget during the outreach process increased to US$75 from the US$25 which has been allocated.
Led by House Member Kudakwashe Bhasikiti of the Mwenezi East constituency, ZANU-PF lawmakers were saying they would insist the outreach process be postponed unless their allowances are increased.
The MDC statement also accused ZANU-PF of working to frustrate the constitutional revision. “Coupled with the ZANU-PF-instigated violent disturbances in the countryside, where villagers are being coerced to stay silent during the outreach program, the whole game plan begins to give itself away," said the MDC statement.
“It is no coincidence that the so-called public media, particularly the (state-controlled) Herald and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation, have been conspicuously silent in publicizing this national event," it continued.
"This conspiracy of silence has betrayed ZANU-PF’s grand plan to waylay and mug this national project in which Zimbabweans must make their own Constitution," the MDC formation charged.
Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said that although he is disturbed by the demand by ZANU-PF lawmakers he is confident the process will move ahead. But he said ZANU-PF must deal with its MPs.
“Those MPs from whatever quota came to the process as a result of being nominated by their respective parties so it is up to the party that nominated those MPs who are demanding more money to whip them into line," he said.
ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said he believes the process will not be stalled. “As far as we are concerned the outreach program is going ahead as stipulated by the principals." While the ZANU-PF members have asked for more money, "certainly as far as we are concerned we will stick to the $25 allowance."
The pro-ZANU-PF Herald newspaper said about 170 MPs are to take part in the outreach with 17 chairing thematic committees with help from civil society representatives. As the outreach is to last 65 days or more, the increase in legislative allowances requested would add more than US$552,000 to the cost of the exercise.