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Zimbabwe Constitution-Revision in Crisis as ZANU-PF Demands New Drafters

The former ruling party charged that the drafters were 'tampering' with views gathered during a turbulent 2010 public outreach process, and that ZANU-PF had consequently lost faith in the drafters

The parliamentary committee in charge of revising Zimbabwe's 30-year-old constitution held crisis talks in Harare on Monday amid reports that President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF unilaterally instructed drafters to halt the constitution-writing process.

The former ruling party charged that the drafters were "tampering" with views gathered during a turbulent 2010 public outreach process. Paul Mangwana, ZANU-PF co-chairman of the parliamentary select committee in charge of the process, told the pro-ZANU-PF Herald newspaper that his party had lost confidence in the drafters.

Ironically, ZANU-PF and Mr. Mugabe have been telling those in charge of the process of constitutional revision to pick up the pace so elections can be held in 2012.

Sources told VOA that the drafters had so far written four sections of the new basic document on principles, citizenship, a bill of rights and Zimbabwe's territory.

But Mangwana was quoted calling for new drafters, charging that the present team seems to be pushing the positions of the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change, for instance on the issue of dual citizenship for expatriates.

The three principal drafters are former High Court justice Moses Chinhengo, and constitutional experts Priscilla Madzonga and Brian Crozier.

Select committee deputy chairperson Gladys Dube-Gombami of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said the meeting was heated and was to continue on Tuesday in an effort to iron out the disagreements. But she said her party is not going to allow ZANU-PF to disrupt the constitution-making process.

“We cannot allow ZANU-PF to run with the ball to say we no longer want the drafters, and remember these drafters were appointed by the (unity government) principals in agreement. ZANU-PF as a party cannot unilaterally then say we want new drafters, we don’t want these drafters,” the MDC-T official said.

She said the objective Tuesday is for the committee to find a way of communicating with the drafters to prevent individuals from hijacking the drafting process.

Chairman Lovemore Madhuku of the National Constitutional Assembly, a civil society organization opposed to the parliamentary-led revision process, said the latest crisis is not surprising and shows why politicians should not be writing the constitution.

He said the only way forward is for an independent commission to take over.

“All that ZANU-PF wants is to try and cripple the constitution making process so as to call for an election in the absence of a (new) constitution in 2012," Madhuku said.