/ 13 April 2009

Zim sets up committee to draft new Constitution

Zimbabwe has set up a 25-member committee that will draft a new democratic Constitution, it was announced on Sunday.

A committee responsible for drafting a democratic Constitution, following the establishment of a new power-sharing government in Zimbabwe nearly two moths ago, was announced on Sunday.

The 25-member committee of deputies drawn from the country’s 210-seat lower chamber of Parliament was announced by the speaker of the House of Assembly, Lovemore Moyo, state radio reported.

The body will be responsible for drafting a new Constitution by February 2010, to be judged in a referendum by July and finally passed by the end of the year.

This was according to a broad power-sharing agreement signed last September by President Robert Mugabe, who has held power since independence in 1980, pro-democracy opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai who is now prime minister in the new coalition administration, and Arthur Mutambara, leader of a lesser faction of
Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).

For the last decade, Zimbabwe has been in crisis, with pro-democracy movements demanding a new Constitution. Mugabe has refused to cede power and, according to international election observers, bludgeoned his way to remain in power through
rigged elections and savage brutality against the MDC, the first serious challenge to his authority since 1980.

However, last year, after Tsvangirai’s MDC won a majority in parliamentary elections and Mugabe had himself declared winner of a violent presidential election, the two rivals agreed to a power-sharing deal that would lead to the draft of a new democratic Constitution.

The drafting committee was to meet on Monday, the speaker said.

Human rights groups have demanded full participation in the process.

Zimbabwe last had a constitutional conference in 2000, when a draft doctored to ensure Mugabe’s continued rule was heavily outvoted in a referendum, costing his Zanu-PF party its first defeat in a national vote.

However, immediately after the defeat he launched a murderous campaign of violence against the MDC, ensuring that he would not lose subsequent elections. – Sapa-DPA