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Troubled Zimbabwe Constitutional Revision Process Relaunched After Fracas

Following a chaotic and ultimately abortive start Monday, a Zimbabwean national stakeholders conference for revising the constitution relaunched Tuesday with Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga telling delegates that the government must provide an environment which ensures the lengthy process will be transparent and inclusive.

Correspondent Irwin Chifera of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe reported from Harare.

Neither President Robert Mugabe nor Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai attended the second session of the troubled constitutional stakeholders meeting, having jointly condemning the disruptions that sent the conference off the rails Monday.

Militants of President Mugabe's long-ruling ZANU-PF party disrupted the opening session singing revolutionary songs, rushing the podium and and throwing water bottles at delegates, forcing House Speaker Lovemore Moyo to leave in mid-speech.

Mr. Mugabe told the country on national television late Monday that the government would “brook no further disruptions." Mr. Tsvangirai condemned those whom he said were “trying to undermine hope” for a durable democratic transition in the country.

Government sources said discussion of the fracas at Monday's constitutional conference dominated the unity cabinet meeting held Tuesday.

In other business the cabinet adopted a Reserve Bank reform bill and Finance Minister Tendai Biti outlined his mid-term policy statement to be delivered Thursday, sources said.

The cabinet had to shelve until next week its ultimatum to the unity government principals - in addition to Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara also signed the September 2008 Global Political Agreement for power sharing - demanding they provide a time frame for resolving lingering issues troubling the unity government.

Contentious issues include an ongoing judicial crackdown on legislators of Mr. Tsvangirai's formation of the Movement for Democratic Change, the five-month delay in swearing in MDC Treasurer Roy Bennett as deputy agriculture minister, appointments of provincial governors and other top posts, and the failure of the National Security Council to convene.

ZANU-PF sources told VOA that soon after the cabinet meeting Mr. Mugabe departed for Egypt for the 15th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement.

Tsvangirai spokesman James Maridadi told reporter Blessing Zulu of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that the principals were not invited to the constitutional session.

Victoria Falls Mayor Nkosilathi Jiyane, present at the conference since its first day, told VOA reporter Brenda Moyo said things went smoothly Tuesday though many were disappointed the president and the prime minister did not take part in relaunching the process.

The National Constitutional Assembly issued a statement saying the disruption of the meeting Monday confirmed its position that revising the constitution can’t be left to politicians.

The NCA said that in any genuine process, all players must be at the same level, denouncing a “political process Nicodemously seeking legitimacy from civic society.”

NCA Chairman Lovemore Madhuku told reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that as long as politicians lead the process, there are bound to be problems like those seen in Harare Monday.

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