The management committee overseeing the drafting of a new Zimbabwean constitution has dismissed claims by a top aide of President Robert Mugabe saying Mr. Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai set a two-week deadline for its completion.
The state-controlled Herald newspaper quoted Chief Presidential and Cabinet Secretary Misheck Sibanda as saying the president and prime minister met Monday and issued an order for the committee to speed up its work and submit a draft by March 15.
But Tsvangirai spokesman Luke Tamborinyoka said that while Mr. Tsvangirai attended a meeting with Mr. Mugabe and agrees that the process needs to be accelerated, no deadline was set by him or Mr. Mugabe in that meeting.
Members of the parliamentary select committee in charge of the process, and the management committee including party negotiators, also said they had not received such a communication, and that such a deadline was in any case impossible to meet.
Select Committee Co-Chairman Douglas Mwonzora told reporter Ntungamili Nkomo that wrapping up the process is not possible due to a number of outstanding issues and the absence of Justice Minister Chinamasa, who has been in Switzerland.
“We have not been given any ultimatum at all. We have not received it, whether orally or verbally, from anyone. We just read it in the newspaper," Mwonzora said.
He added: “We do not take instructions from one principal, we take instructions from the three [national unity government] principals acting together.”
National Constitutional Assembly Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporter Violet Gonda that the two week ultimatum is without significance.
Madhuku, whose pressure group has threatened to campaign for a “No” vote once the draft goes to a referendum, said the constitution gives too much power to the President.
“That two week ultimatum is now Mugabe reasserting his control because he wants the constitution completed and he wants elections - he now knows that the constitution is in his favor,” Madhuku said.