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Zimbabwe Parliament, NGOs Set Ground Rules on Constitutional Observers

Political tensions continue: the MDC formation of Prime Minister Tsvangirai said suspected members of President Mugabe's ZANU-PF tried to abduct one of the party's district organizing secretaries in Manicaland province

Zimbabwe's select parliamentary committee in charge of revising the constitution reached agreement on Wednesday with non-governmental organizations as to setting ground rules for civil society observers of the ongoing - and in number of aspects, troubled - public comment phase of the exercise.

Heads of the parliamentary committee and civil society leaders held a joint news conference to brief reports on the deal which defused that had led to threats by some officials to arrest NGO observers in the field, as VOA Studio 7 correspondent Irwin Chifera reported from Harare.

The National Association of Non-Governmental Organizations or confirmed it intends to cooperate with the select committee. Nango Chief Executive Officer Cephas Zinhumwe told VOA Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the civic activists shadowing the constitutional outreach process willingly endorsed the code.

Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga told reporters separately on Wednesday that the Harare unity government is committed to the constitutional revision, which he called an historic event.

VOA Studio 7 correspondent Mark Peter Nthambe reported that Matinenga said he would hold news conferences every two weeks to inform journalists on the progress of the much-delayed constitutional revision process.

Despite such moves by the government and the parliament, the outreach process continues to generate political tension. The Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said suspected members of the ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe tried to abduct Matthew Gonera, the party's organizing district secretary for Musikavanhu district in Manicaland province, a traditional political hot spot.

Party sources said Gonera escaped his would-be abductors with the help of villager. They said a group of men in a Nissan truck tried to grab him at the Rimai Business Center in Ward 25 of the district a few days ago.

Deputy Organizing Secretary Morgan Komichi of the Tsvangirai MDC told VOA Studio 7 reporter Patience Rusere that harassment of district organizing secretaries has picked up in Manicaland in particular. He said the district secretaries are responsible for mobilizing members to take part in the constitutional outreach process.

Komichi said even official outreach officers and rapporteurs are being intimidated.