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Harare, Zimbabwe, Residents Seek Answers After Constitutional Meetings Suspended

Residents Trust Coordinator Precious Shumba said residents want some answers from the officials in charge of the constitutional outreach process, troubled since it was launched in June

Following the suspension of Zimbabwe's constitutional revision outreach process in Harare on Monday after chaos and violence disrupted public comment meetings in the capital over the weekend, civil society activists Tuesday were demanding answers from parliamentary officials as to where the troubled exercise is headed.

The Harare Residents Trust called a meeting Wednesday to discuss the indefinite suspension of the outreach process in Harare. Public meetings were disrupted by persons widely identified as militants of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party, which has been accused of intimidating members of the public elsewhere.

Residents Trust Coordinator Precious Shumba said that in light of the weekend turmoil and the lack of clarity by Parliament's select committee on constitutional revision as to when meetings will be rescheduled, residents want some answers from the officials in charge of the process, troubled since it was launched in June.

Shumba told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that residents of Harare, which is a stronghold of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, fear their voices on the shape of the new constitution could be silenced due to the suspension of the outreach process.

Ordinary Zimbabweans interviewed on Harare's streets said the select committee should apologize to the nation for the violence that rocked the consultation process in Harare, as Irwin Chifera reported from the capital.

The constitutional outreach process also ran into serious trouble in eastern Manicaland province.

Following an assault on outreach team members Monday, allegedly by ZANU-PF activists, soldiers and state security agents, new violence was reported Tuesday with four more meetings called off in Makoni South.

Correspondent Loirdham Moyo reported on the wave of disruption that started Monday.

Local MDC lawmaker Pichai Muchauraya told VOA that the prominent war veterans leader Joseph Chinotimba sent him death threats and pulled a gun on him Tuesday morning in Mutare. He said outreach meetings in the area had been abandoned for the time being with only nine out of 30 completed in his Makoni South district.

Elsewhere, 83 members of the pressure group Women Of Zimbabwe Arise remained in custody in Harare Central Police Station following their arrest on Monday during a protest marking International Peace Day.

A WOZA statement said the activists were charged with obstructing traffic. It said the detainees had refused to pay admission-of-guilt fines and insisted on going to court. Their arraignment could take place on Wednesday.

The group said a member of the male counterpart organization Men of Zimbabwe Arise, Lazarus Mandondo, was severely beaten while in police custody. It said conditions in the Harare lockup were deplorable.

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