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Zimbabwe NGOs Petition Zuma Over Draft Charter Conference

Confusion surrounds Zimbabwe's constitution-making process with the parliamentary select committee responsible for the draft charter on Friday saying the Second All-Stakeholders’ Conference will go ahead despite threats by some civil society organizations to pull out of the meeting.

Addressing journalists in the capital following threats by civic groups to pull out of the stakeholders' conference, Parliamentary Constitution Select Committee (COPAC) co-chairmen Paul Mangwana of Zanu PF and Douglas Mwonzora of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said independent organizations should register to participate or risk being left out.

Organizations under Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations threatened Thursday to pull out of the process over demands by COPAC that they should register under the three political parties in the unity government that have been driving the constitution-making process.

Mangwana said there were many civil society organizations that are not members of NANGO or Crisis in Zimbabwe which have already been accredited.

“We went out of our way to accommodate demands by NANGO and Crisis Coalition by asking them to bring us names. That’s how we created additional 100 seats which we allocated to Crisis and NANGO," said Mangwana.

“In addition to the other civil society organizations who we had already been accredited, so it is factually incorrect to say we have not adhered to the 70 percent (civil society) and 30 percent (political parties) representation,” he said.

Mwonzora said civil society participation at the stakeholders’ conference which starts Sunday is an important constitutional process.

However, the civil society organizations wrote to the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Zimbabwe mediator, President Jacob Zuma of South Africa, complaining about COPAC’s demands for civil society groups to register under political parties.

In a letter sent to President Zuma of South Africa Thursday NGOs said: “We believe that our concerns are just and legitimate and because we have failed to get some relief from parties in Zimbabwe, we now appeal to you and hope that you will be able to assist in dealing with some of the issues we have raised in a bid to facilitate progress in a positive way on our valued democratic processes”

The groups, which held a two-day meeting under the banner of the Civil Society Coordinating Mechanisms on Constitutional Reform, which ended in Harare Friday, resolved they will register with COPAC as individual organizations and not under any political parties.

Bulawayo Agenda executive director Thabani Nyoni, who is also Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition spokesman, said having legitimate and non-partisan civil society participation can only enhance and add legitimacy and ownership to the constitution-making process.
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Meanwhile, the fate of the country’s draft constitution after the conference remains uncertain as principals in the government of national unity continue to fight over the document.

After facing serious resistance from his party, Mr. Tsvangirai, has backed down from his earlier agreement with President Mugabe to take control of the draft document from the parliamentary select committee to allow the executive to introduce some agreed changes.

Mr. Mugabe is proposing setting up a cabinet committee to take over from COPAC.

Leader of the MDC formation led by Professor Welshman Ncube of the other wing of the MDC has refused to endorse the proposal.

Some legal experts said Mr. Mugabe’s move is against the spirit of the Global Political Agreement.

Sources said Mr. Zuma has already been informed about the plot to hijack the COPAC process which may torpedo the whole process.

Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga said Mr. Tsvangirai has shown political maturity in reversing his unpopular decision.
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In another development, Mangwana and Mwonzora said ordinary Zimbabweans can collect the national statistical report from provincial administrators’ offices starting Saturday.