The constitution-making process in Zimbabwe finally seems to be making headway. The outreach exercise was already several months behind schedule due to delays caused by endless squabbles over the composition of the teams, talking points to shape the hearings, donor funding, allowances to be paid, and other issues.
The three principals in the Government of National Unity--President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara--came together on June 16, 2010, to officially launch the Constitutional Outreach Program, spearheaded by the Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC). Alexander Chisango, Chairman of the African Centre for Law and Justice (ACLJ) opened the event in prayer.
Over a period of 65 days, 70 teams--each comprising 10 accredited and trained outreach personnel--will hold widespread public consultations with members of society in all ten provinces of the country.
Although Constitutional Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga was quite optimistic about the next stage of the constitution-making process, several concerns have been raised. Some groups have noted that the consultation process may be adversely affected by the ongoing FIFA Soccer World Cup being hosted by neighboring South Africa, as it will cause both participants and outreach team members to lose focus and be distracted. Already, there have been some reports that most people are largely unaware of the entire outreach process because of a lack of information and publicity, as it has been overshadowed by the soccer tournament. Moreover, the possibility of intimidation and violence occurring during the consultation process, particularly in the rural areas, has not been ruled out; in fact, cases of intimidation are alleged to be on the increase in some parts of the country. This is in spite of statements made by the three principals at the launch that they were in agreement that there should be no violence before, during or after the outreaches.
Some civil society organizations have joined forces and deployed hundreds of independent monitors countrywide to independently assess and evaluate the constitution-making process against established principles, benchmarks and standards expected of the process, in effect, policing the process.
Over three million Zimbabweans in the diaspora who contribute more than a quarter of Zimbabwes GDP may be excluded from the constitution-making process as COPAC allegedly does not have financial resources to engage them and gather their views on the process, even though the Global Political Agreement makes it clear that every Zimbabwean must participate in the process.
According to a revised timetable, a draft constitution should be ready by April next year, while a referendum on it is expected to be held in the following month.
On the same day as the launch of the program, a team from the American Centre for Law and Justice, led by Jordan Sekulow, arrived in Harare. In collaboration with the ACLJ Zimbabwe Team, their objective was to conduct a series of meetings with government officials and key business and church leaders in the country, as well as to evaluate and consolidate its humanitarian efforts in vulnerable sections of society. The meetings all proved to be very constructive and provided insight into the progress in Zimbabwe and the potential for reconciliation, restoration and reconstruction. The ACLJ Team met with leaders from all three of Zimbabwes main political parties, including Prime Minister Tsvangirai, Vice President John Nkomo, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara, Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Eric Matinenga, and Minister of Tourism Walter Mzembi.
New Director at ACLJ-Zimbabwe:
The new Executive Director for the African Centre for Law and Justice, Sharon Wekwete, joins the organization from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Harare Regional Delegation. She is a lawyer with experience practicing at one of the countrys top law firms, as well as being a legal consultant for several organizations. She has wide-ranging media experience, having anchored a live morning show on the national broadcaster and presented other television programs, as well as having been involved in the production of documentaries and commercials, together with print and electronic media tools.