Zimbabwean officials in charge of the country's long-stalled constitutional outreach said agreement has been reached on funding police security for the public outreach phase, clearing the way for public debate to begin.
The government will provide US$350,000 to the Zimbabwe Republic Police to fund security arrangements for the outreach phase of the constitutional revision process now scheduled to begin June 15, officials said.
The national police initially asked for US$3 million. The parliamentary committee in charge of revising the constitution said it could not afford this and providing security fell within the normal scope of police duties.
Non-governmental organizations conducting constitutional outreach on their own have reported intimidation by youths of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party and liberation war veterans who have allegedly been pressuring citizens in rural areas in particular to endorse the Kariba constitutional draft, or to block meetings entirely.
Press reports quoted Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga as saying at least five police officers should be assigned to every outreach meeting held around the country.
Parliamentary Select Committee Co-Chairman Douglas Mwonzora told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that by the time outreach begins June 15, he expects issues relating to violence will have been resolved.
The revision process has experience numerous delays, mainly to do with funding. International donors demanded more accountability and asked the government to help meet costs projected to total US$21 million.
The constitutional revision process was initially expected to conclude in September or October with a referendum on the new basic document, but sources said that ballot may not be held until early 2011.
Should voters approve the constitution, a new round of elections might be held in 2011, though many observers say political and other reforms have much further to go before the country will be ready. General and presidential elections in 2008 were marred by alleged tampering and widespread political violence.