afrol News, 17 June - During 65 days, the people of Zimbabwe are asked to "contribute their views and opinions on what should comprise the ultimate law of the land." The delayed process to write a new Zimbabwean constitution has finally started.
President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday officially launched the "Constitution Outreach Programme," starting a two-month campaign to ask the Zimbabwean people their opinion on how the country's new constitution should be phrased.
The constitutional change programme is already several months behind schedule due to cooperation problems in the power-sharing government. The process to define the new constitution is long a complicated, going through three phases. First, the general public is asked for advice, then several groups of stakeholders and politicians have their say.
According to the Prime Minister's office, "this would mean that the draft final report would be completed by the end of this year with the Second Stakeholders' Conference scheduled for February 2011. Zimbabweans are expected to go for elections once the new constitution is adopted."
The start-up of the Constitution Outreach Programme thus is a milestone in the democratic transition process in Zimbabwe. Especially the PM's Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) part of government therefore celebrated yesterday's event as an important step.
Speaking to a jubilant crowd in Harare at the launch, PM Tsvangirai said that he was "aware that some elements had attempted to sabotage the process" - indirectly pointing to President Mugabe standing at his right side - but added that they would never succeed in subverting the will of the people.
"It is heartening to note that the lesson to be learnt from the process thus far is that those that resist change and the right of the people to determine their own future may attempt to delay the democratic process but they will never triumph in derailing it all together. The will of the people cannot be denied nor can their voice be silenced," Mr Tsvangirai emphasised in his speech.
The MDC leader in particular was proud to have been able to make the constitutional process especially democratic in a country that has been noted for its undemocratic rule over the past years. Mr Tsvangirai emphasised that "in asserting our true sovereignty there can be no more important document than a constitution, written and endorsed by the people."
"For too long our nation has operated under an imposed, often-amended constitution and it is now time to truly entrench our rights and freedoms within our own fundamental law," he added.
But also President Mugabe in his speech made it clear he supported the democratic process to define a new Zimbabwean constitution. "We will allow the people to debate the nature of the government they want. We must also look at various practices elsewhere and allow the people to make their choice," the aging leader said in his launching speech.
Both leaders, known as bitter rivals, appeared supportive of each other and preached tolerance and progress at the Harare event. "We are the drivers," President Mugabe said about himself and his Prime Minister. Mr Tsvangirai for his sake made sure to praise the "liberation heroes", mainly attached to Mr Mugabe's ZANU party, and their importance for independence and freedom in is speech.
But there can be no talking of trust between the two rivals. PM Tsvangirai, too aware of ZANU's history of intimidating the population, made great efforts to explain Zimbabweans they could feel safe to utter their free opinion in the popular consultation. The police had been ordered to "oversee the safety and security of the outreach programme," he announced.
"I encourage all Zimbabweans to resist any acts of intimidation aimed at influencing the constitution-making process. In this process there can be no reason for violence and there will be no tolerance of violence against the people," the Prime Minister promised.
The vast outreach programme will distribute a big amount of questionnaires at thousands of discussion meetings that are to be held on a nation-wide scale. Audio and video tapes are to be made of the meetings, for Harare politicians to get a feeling of how people feel about the new constitution around the country.
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