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Zimbabwe Opens Consultation Phase on Constitution; Referendum Seen by October

The forthcoming consultative phase of Zimbabwe's constitutional revision process will last about three months, followed by the process of drafting the document, then a and national referendum by September or October

The process of constitutional revision in Zimbabwe advanced another step on Monday as the training of some 625 outreach workers began in Harare after similar sessions last week for parliamentarians and thematic committee heads.

The forthcoming consultative phase of the revision process will last about three months, followed by the actual drafting and a referendum by October.

Parliamentary Select Committee co-chairmen Munyaradzi Mangwana of the former ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and Douglas Mwonzora of the Movement for Democratic Change formation led by Prime minister Morgan Tsvangirai told VOA that the training was meant to ensure uniformity in the consultative process and avoid partisanship.

The outreach teams will be deployed next week equipped with a questionnaire to help them compile the views of Zimbabweans on the new constitution.

But the process remains fraught with doubt and suspicion. Chiefs Council of Zimbabwe President Fortune Charumbira, quoted in the state-run Herald newspaper aligned with ZANU-PF, warned the government to be wary of civic groups which he said might hijack the constitution-making process.

But Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that everything is proceeding according to plan.

Despite such optimism on the part of organizers, reports from the traditional ZANU-PF stronghold of Mashonaland East said officials of the former ruling in the Uzumba parliamentary constituency were intimidating MDC supporters in an effort to coerce them into supporting the so-called Kariba draft which the MDC and others say concentrates too much power in the presidency.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported on the alleged incident in which one MDC supporter said she fled Uzumba in fear.

The so-called Kariba draft constitution was crafted in 2007 by ZANU-PF and the two formations of the MDC but the Tsvangirai grouping in particular has repudiated the document as the basis of the new constitution.