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Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly Pledges to Resist Revision Process

Sources in Mashonaland West province said uniformed soldiers attending an outreach meeting at Gwebi College strongly advocated ZANU-PF positions on the constitution, silencing most of the 250 in attendance

Zimbabwe's National Constitutional Assembly, a civic advocacy organization, said Monday it will step up its campaign against the official constitutional revision process with demonstrations and grassroots meetings nationwide.

The NCA, which has strongly objected to control of the ongoing constitutional revision process by a parliamentary select committee as opposed to a constitutional commission in which civil society would play a leading role, held three days of consultations among its leaders and members that ended on Monday.

NCA spokesman Maddock Chivasa said problems in the public outreach phase of the revision process show it is being manipulated by politicians. He told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that the NCA leadership has decided not to rely on international donors for funding but will raise money from members through subscription fees.

In the constitutional outreach process itself, sources in Mashonaland West province said uniformed soldiers attending an outreach meeting at Gwebi College strongly advocated the position of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party favoring a powerful presidency with no prime minister, and discouraged the expression of other views.

Sources said many of the 250 members of the public attending were silenced by the presence of the soldiers and the tenor of their comments. But some students took up the opposing stance leading to a robust exchange of views.

Lawmaker Douglas Mwonzora, co-chairman of the parliamentary select committee in charge of constitutional revision, told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri there was nothing wrong with soldiers attending a meeting in uniform.

Elsewhere, meetings in Shurugwi and Zvishavane districts of Midlands province were delayed by several hours after outreach team members and drivers at the provincial government complex in Gweru threatened to strike over non-payment of wages. Delay in the receipt of fuel coupons from Harare also held things up, sources said.

Midlands province outreach team leader Joram Gumbo, ZANU-PF chief parliamentary whip, said the problems were eventually resolved and the teams proceeded with their scheduled public consultations.