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Zimbabwe Civil Society Leader Puts Opposition At Arm's Length

Zimbabwean civil society leader Lovemore Madhuku said Friday that although he has expressed deep disillusionment with the opposition Movement for Democratic Change for voting with the ruling party to amend the constitution so as to change the nation's electoral framework, he did not back proposals for a new opposition party.

Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, told a meeting in Gweru, the capital of Zimbabwe's Midlands Province, that an alternative opposition party would not be able to wrest power from the ruling ZANU-PF of President Robert Mugabe so long as the constitution now in place remains in effect.

Madhuku was responding to a suggestion from some members of his organization that the NCA should help form a new opposition party because the Movement for Democratic change has not promoted fundamental constitutional reform.

He told the NCA's Midlands regional assembly that the organization would continue its fight for what it calls a "people-driven constitution" guaranteeing free, fair elections.

Madhuku said poor governance has caused the country's deepening economic crisis so a new constitution is needed for Zimbabwe to be well governed and to prosper.

Madhuku criticized the MDC for voting with the ruling party to amend the constitution. He said ZANU-PF stands to win the national elections slated for March as the present constitution, amended many times, gives it a crucial advantage over the opposition.

He said opposition politicians know this but are blinded by greed because they will be able to hold well-paid seats in parliament even if the ruling party is returned.

Madhuku said the MDC has its own reasons for compromising with the ruling party on the constitutional amendment signed into law this week by President Robert Mugabe, but that the NCA "does not care about the reasons, nor does it care about the friendship that has been existing between it and the opposition."

He said the the ruling party had been forced into crisis resolution talks by concerted efforts from the MDC and civic stakeholders organized under the banner of the Save Zimbabwe Campaign - but that civil society has been left out of the dialogue.

Madhuku added that while in the past the NCA had not been concerned as to whether its members belonged to the MDC, it was now time for clearer lines to be drawn as he charged that his organization's constitutional reform agenda had been subverted.

He said National Constitutional Asembly regional officials are trying to make clear that the organization disagres with the MDC on the recent constitutional amendment, and to emphasize that it is committed to obtaining a "people-driven" constitution.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...