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Activists: Zimbabwe's Draft Constitution Ignores Right to Shelter

The new draft constitution that is expected to be discussed next week as the country moves towards a new charter has been applauded by many for highlighting and respecting the rights of ordinary Zimbabweans.

But human rights activists say it lacks provisions for one fundamental right - shelter - as millions of Zimbabweans are currently struggling to get decent accommodation.

Speaking from Harare Wednesday in a video conference organized by the United States-based Freedom House on the new draft constitution, the organization's senior program officer Justice Mavedzenge said unlike the Lancaster House constitution, the parliamentary draft document recognizes all human rights except shelter.

More than 700,000 people were left homeless following a crackdown, dubbed Operation Murambatsvina, against so-called make-shift homes in urban areas. Most of the victims were displaced and are still homeless.

Responding to a question on security sector reforms, parliamentary select committee co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora, said activities like Murambatsvina shall not be recognized in the country's new law.

Mwonzora also said the draft document is clear in defining the role of service chiefs in Zimbabwe.

He noted that members of the security forces in future will not be expected to be partisan. "They will only deal with civilian institutions in times of emergencies," he said.

Mwonzora said Zimbabwe has in the past seen state-sponsored violence which he hopes will be a thing of the past once the new constitution was adopted outlining and clarifying the roles of various institutions, the military and related issues.

Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights executive director Irene Petras said a number of non-governmental organizations have been trying to educate ordinary Zimbabweans on what was contained in the draft charter.

Mwonzora said his committee, in its desire to have ordinary Zimbabweans understand the draft before the Second All Stakeholders Conference and the referendum, has tried to engage the state broadcaster, the ZBC, to no avail as it wanted the select committee to pay to go on air.

The Movement for Democratic Change co-chairman also said he does not see the constitutional referendum being called any time before January next year.
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