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Zimbabwe Constitutional Debate Heats Up With Naming of Parliamentary Co-Chairs

The appointment of lawmakers from Zimbabwe's co-governing Movement For Democratic Change and ZANU-PF parties to lead a constitutional revision process could further polarize public opinion on how best to forge a new basic document, observers said Wednesday.

Political analysts said public opinion is swinging against the constitution-making process led by a 25-member parliamentary committee co-chaired by Douglas Mwonzora of the majority Movement For Democratic Change and Paul Mangwana of the former ruling ZANU-PF.

Mwonzora and Mangwana were named Tuesday by Parliament to head the revision process as it is spelled out in the global political agreement that is the basis of the unity government led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the dominant MDC formation.

Analysts said the appointments could sharpen discord between the political class and civic activists who want a constitutional commission to draft a "people-driven" document.

Political analyst Brilliant Mhlanga told reporter Gibbs Dube of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that voters could reject a constitution drafted under the parliamentary procedure.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the National Constitutional Assembly, one of the leading voices in the debate over revision of the constitution, said that following discussions with Tsvangirai the organization will submit recommendations to the prime minister on how the new constitution should be drafted, potentially marking out common ground.

NCA Director Ernest Mudzengi told reporter Marvellous Mhlanga-Nyahuye of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that he hopes for a compromise though the camps are "worlds apart."

Elsewhere, civil society groups in a meeting chaired by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights urged the government to promote public participation in the formation of a human rights commission provided for by a recent constitutional amendment.

Civic activists demanded transparency in the selection of commissioners and said that the panel should be given powers to investigate human rights violations.

Other organizations represented at the session in the offices Of the rights lawyers included the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions - the country's largest union - and the Law Society, among others. Civic sources said activists will now commence lobbying parliament.

Spokesman Fambai Ngirande of the National Association Of Non-Governmental Organizations said the meeting was called because although reports said the commission would be formed soon the government had not called for comment, raising concerns among civic groups that the process would not be as open as it should be.

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