Tue, Apr 14, 2009 - Page 6 News List

Zimbabwe sets up group to draft new constitution


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

The 25-member committee of deputies drawn from the country’s 210-seat lower chamber of parliament to draw up a new constitution 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 next February, to be judged in a referendum by next July and finally passed by the end of the year.

This followed a broad power-sharing agreement signed last September by Zimbabwean 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 and an end to the effective one-party-state rule by 85-year-old Mugabe.

He 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 that was condemned by international observers, 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 yesterday, 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 outvoted in a referendum, costing his party its first defeat in a national vote.

After the defeat he launched a campaign of violence against the MDC ensuring that he would not lose subsequent elections.

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