President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Monday appealed for tolerance and peace as the country’s second all stakeholders conference reviewing the draft constitution opened in Harare.
If adopted, the constitution will lead to Zimbabwe's next election which Mr. Mugabe has said wants to be held in March next year.
There were fears before the conference started that because of rising political tension in the unity government over the draft charter, the situation could get out of control and a result the unity government principals were roped in to ensure there was order and peace.
President Mugabe, who does not agree with Mr. Tsvangirai on some of the issues in the draft, urged delegates to debate the charter peacefully.
"We must live up to the expectations of the people of Zimbabwe. Let us be peaceful in our conduct. Surely, settling things through fisticuffs instead of through dialogue and discussion is primitive," said Mr. Mugabe.
He said: "Our intellectual levels should lift us to that upper level where argument, dialogue, debate, discussion, deliberation should be used as a way of reaching agreement or disagreement."
Mr. Mugabe said political leaders were responsible for giving direction to those at the grassroots and must discuss the draft constitution freely.
While the parliamentary select committee has done a good job in leading the constitution-making process, the President said the unity government principals will have a final say on the document.
"There are some who are saying why are the principals saying they should review the process? Because we are the ones who caused everything … Sometimes people fail to see where power is derived from."
On his part, Mr. Tsvangirai also called for peace saying Zimbabweans must put aside their differences and come up with a constitution that will help build a better Zimbabwe.
The leader also played up parliament's role in the constitution-writing process.
"For the record, this process is being done in accordance with Article 6 of the GPA (global political agreement, which set up the coalition) which makes it clear that this is a parliament-driven process in which the principals and the executive must play a minimum part," he said.
"We have no intention whatsoever, at least on my part, to tamper or meddle with the people's views."
"This exercise underpins our belief in constitutionalism and the rule of law. We cannot therefore be in contradiction with ourselves by preaching a coup or a military subversion of the people's will," Mr. Tsvangirai said in apparent reference to statements by some senior Zanu PF and military officials threatening chaos in the country if the MDC president won the next elections.
Meanwhile, a third of delegates from the MDC formation of led by Industry Minister Welshman Ncube boycotted the official opening ceremony over deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara’s presence.
Mutambara, the former leader of the MDC formation, also addressed the conference, urging Zimbabweans to learn to respect the constitution.
Ncube said he was riled by Mr. Mugabe and Mr. Tsvangirai insisting on Mutambara’s presence and allowing his to speak at the conference.