Zim holds key meeting towards constitutional reforms
Zimbabwe holds a crucial meeting on Monday to review a draft of a new constitution, a key step toward elections meant to end the uneasy power-sharing government between President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.
Two years in the making, the draft charter will be debated at a two-day conference in the capital Harare attended by civil society groups and supporters of Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ruler since 1980, and Tsvangirai, his top rival.
Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed a "unity government" in February 2009 in a bid to end deadly political violence that erupted after disputed elections in 2008. Under the power-sharing deal, which was brokered by regional mediators, Zimbabwe is to draft a new constitution and put it to voters in a referendum, paving the way for fresh polls.
But the process of drafting the new constitution was plagued by chronic delays and violence at public meetings. A draft negotiated by Mugabe's Zanu-PF party, Tsvangirai's MDC party and a smaller MDC splinter group was finished in August. MDC spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party hopes the meeting will be peaceful, after a similar conference was disrupted by Zanu-PF supporters in 2009.
"We are expecting a peaceful, all-stakeholders conference where people are allowed to express themselves. We expect that there should be tolerance and respect for each other," he told AFP.
The current draft would rein in presidential powers and bolster those of Parliament, set a presidential term limit of 10 years and strip away the president's immunity from prosecution after leaving office.
Zanu-PF has said it disagrees with parts of the draft. It wants to restore some of the powers stripped from the president, add a section explicitly barring same-sex marriage and bar dual citizenship. "We are planning to have our amended version of the draft constitution to be factored in the new constitution," Zanu-PF spokesperson Rugare Gumbo told AFP.
"We hope everything will work well because all the political parties want the process to go on well." Mugabe and Tsvangirai will both address the meeting Monday.
McDonald Lewanika, the director of the Crisis in Zimbabwe coalition, said civic society organisations will table their recommendations at the conference but do not know if their points will be considered.
"We resolved that the draft constitution is by and large OK, but we have our recommendations that we are going to submit," Lewanika said. "This process is limited ... There is no way we are going to know if our recommendations are going to be considered."
No date has been set for the referendum. – Sapa-AFP