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Zimbabwe Constitutional Panel, Civic Groups Meet Over New Charter

Zimbabwe's panel leading the writing of a new constitution met Monday with civic groups in Bulawayo to clarify a number of issues it says have been grossly misrepresented by hardliners in President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.

The parliamentary committee, widely known as Copac, also unveiled its official draft charter, different from other documents previously leaked to the state media, supposedly by ZANU-PF politicians trying to frustrate the constitutional effort.

Committee co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora unpacked the draft amid lingering skepticism, especially over the issue of devolution of power.

"A lot of misinformation has being peddled by elements in ZANU-PF about the draft," Mwonzora said. "We saw it important, therefore, to engage the civic groups and set the record straight."

Groups at the meeting included the Bulawayo Agenda, Matabeleland Constitutional Reform Agenda, NANGO and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, all supportive of devolution.

The constitution committee provided the unity government partners with the draft charter last week, and is now awaiting their feedback before finalizing the document that will be taken to a national referendum for approval.

But consensus on the new constitution remains a long shot as ZANU-PF and the MDC remain divided over a number of contentious issues, among them, dual citizenship.

Mwonzora told VOA his committee was now awaiting feedback from the unity partners so it can finalize the charter, which when approved, will replace the heavily-flawed founding constitution that gives unchecked power to the president.

"They are delaying us," he said. "We want to finish this process and go for elections that ZANU-PF has been demanding. There is no need to delay the process any further."

Bulawayo Agenda programs manager Busani Ncube said the civic groups are now examining the draft, adding they will convene a meeting later this week to share their observations.