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Zimbabweans Launch Constitutional Consultations Under Shadow of Violence

The MDC formation of Prime Minister Tsvangirai accused militants of President Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of burning the homes of MDC supporters Monday in Muzarabani to keep them from taking part in the outreach process

Officials in charge of Zimbabwe's constitutional revision process on Thursday were finalizing schedules for the public comment sessions that are to begin on Wednesday, June 23.

Between now and then outreach officers will be accredited and deployed to the country's 10 provinces. Organizers said they have placed ads in newspapers for the outreach schedule through June. The meetings will run through late September, then the constitution will be drafted and a referendum will be scheduled.

The entire process is months behind schedule due to prolonged discussions with international donors over funding the program, and to disagreements among the main political parties over how the process should unfold.

Despite new reports of violence and intimidation, Douglas Mwonzora, co-chairman of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Revision, said that following Wednesday's call for tolerance and nonviolence by the senior partners in the unity government, those who disturb the process will be arrested.

In a related development, the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai accused militants of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party of burning the homes of MDC supporters late Monday in Muzarabani to keep them from joining the constitutional revision outreach process.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare, where some victims took shelter at MDC headquarters.

Deputy Minister of Parliamentary and Legal affairs Jessie Manjome called Thursday for women to take part in the constitutional outreach process to ensure the eventual document protects their rights.

From Harare, Studio Seven’s Sylvia Manika reported from Kadoma, Midlands.

With the constitutional outreach process starting in a few days, fears are mounting that the exercise could be marred by violence despite the call by all three unity government principals for peace.

For perspective on the risk of violence VOA Studio 7 reporter Sandra Nyaira turned to political analyst Charles Mangongera and Reverend Forbes Matonga of Christian Care. Mangongera applauded the three principals for calling jointly for a peaceful process, but said more needs to be done in rural political hotspots.