World Cup, fear of violence delay Zimbabwe constitution debate

2010-06-22 13:46

Public meetings at which Zimbabweans were to discuss the country’s

new constitution have been postponed in two main cities because of possible

violence and because the meetings would clash with World Cup matches.

The planned new constitution is one of the most important issues in

the power-sharing agreement of the 16-month-old coalition government led by

President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

Tomorrow, hundreds of teams from the national constitutional

committee are due to travel all over the country to hold public hearings at

which Zimbabweans are to be given the chance to express their views on it.

But one outreach team each in Harare, the capital, and in the

second city of Bulawayo have had to delay their work because of plans to disrupt

the meetings, Douglas Mwonzora, co-chair of the Constitutional Parliamentary

Select Committee (Copac), said.

Mwonzora said: “It has come to our attention there were plans by

some political parties to send groups to the meetings ahead of the team. The aim

appears to be disruption and to make sure we don’t gather meaningful


He did not name the groups but indicated they were from Mugabe’s

Zanu-PF party. Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change party had got wind of

the plans and were arranging counter strategies, he said. The meetings would

therefore probably turn violent and there would be political clashes.

The other problem, he said, was the likelihood of a low turn out in

the cities because Copac was planning to hold meetings in the afternoons and

evenings when people had finished work - when World Cup football games are


The Harare and Bulawayo meetings would be held instead from July

12, the day after the World Cup final match.

Human rights groups based mostly in Zimbabwe’s rural areas have

been reporting for months that Mugabe’s supporters have been threatening

reprisals against people who express support for anything but Zanu-PF’s

proposals to maintain Mugabe in a position of almost absolute power.

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