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With Public Comment Compiled, Zimbabwe Ready to Draft New Constitution

Constitutional Parliamentary Committee spokeswoman Jessie Majome, said the panel has finalized its report on the constitutional preferences of Zimbabweans as expressed in last year’s outreach process

Zimbabwe's much-delayed and often troubled constitutional revision process reached a milestone this week as the parliamentary committee in charge of the exercise said it has concluded a report on voter preferences for the new basic document document.

Addressing reporters in Harare on Thursday, Constitutional Parliamentary Committee spokeswoman Jessie Majome, also deputy minister of women’s affairs, said the panel has finalized its report on the constitutional preferences of Zimbabweans as expressed in last year’s outreach process, which fell behind schedule and overspent budgets.

Majome said she could not disclose the contents of the report, but committee co-chairman Paul Mangwana of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF said the report offered a statistical summary of public responses on outreach talking points.

Majome said the report would be released “very soon," but did not give a date.

She said the three drafters named by the committee - Botswana High Court Justice Moses Chinhengo and lawyers Priscilla Madzonga and Brian Crozier will start writing the new basic document following a strategic workshop in Masvingo next week.

"These drafters will be supported by a drafting team comprised mainly of constitutional lawyers selected in the usual inclusive manner," Majome said.

It remains to be seen whether ZANU-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change now sharing power will be able to reach agreement on issues such as presidential powers and the future of the prime minister's office, among others.

Sources said the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai wanted to maintain the parliamentary system with prime minister, but that a majority of Zimbabweans backed the executive model favored by Mr. Mugabe's ZANU-PF.

Completion of the draft is likely to set the stage for a second all-stakeholders conference and then a national referendum which could pave the way for elections.

Ernest Mudzengi, director of the Harare Media Center and former director of the National Constitutional Assembly said the public outreach process was flawed so a document based on it would not provide the basis for free and fair elections.

“It is unfortunate that we are being waylaid into another terrain of politics that is not democratic," Mudzengi commented. "In fact it’s a constitution that might actually ensure that the MDC will never rule this country.”

But MDC Deputy Justice Minister Obert Gutu said "half a loaf is better than nothing” as failing to make a new constitution means falling back on the discredited Lancaster House constitution which has been amended 19 times since independence in 1980.

“Zimbabwe is going through a transitional process and the transitional process is fraught with polarization across the political divide. If we are going to say let’s wait until a situation that is ideal it will take us forever,” Gutu added.

On the media reform front, the Voice of the People Communication Trust, which operates offshore broadcaster Radio VOP, said it is prepared to stop broadcasting from outside the country if it is granted a license to operate a local commercial radio station.

VOP Communication Trust Chairman David Masunda told the Broadcasting Authority of Zimbabwe in the last of four public hearings on applicants for two commercial licenses that VOP seeks a license in line with Zimbabwean law and the Global Political Agreement which urged radio stations outside the country to set up locally.

VOP now broadcasts from Madagascar over a Radio Netherlands frequency.