Zimbabwe new constitution suspended over bickering

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Zimbabwe has suspended moves to draw up a new constitution due to political bickering over funding, dealing a blow to hopes for free and fair elections next year after the intended adoption of the charter.

Arch rivals President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai signed a power-sharing deal in September 2008 that led to formation of a unity government last February and agreed to write a new constitution within 18 months.

Many Zimbabweans hope a new charter, replacing the one penned in 1979 before independence from Britain, will strengthen the role of parliament, curtail the president’s powers and guarantee civil, political and media freedoms as the country tries to rebuild its shattered economy.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) has previously said Mugabe’s ZANU-PF was not committed to the drafting of a new constitution which could usher in democratic reforms, and had repeatedly sought to frustrate the process in a bid to delay elections that are supposed to follow.

A parliamentary committee is leading the process.
“The management committee has suspended the outreach programme for now, mainly because of financial constraints,” Douglas Mwonzora, who co-chairs the committee, told Reuters.

Mwonzora, a legislator from Tsvangirai’s MDC party, said there were also differences with Mugabe’s ZANU-PF on who should be collecting views on the constitution.
“There are also disagreements that we need to resolve before the process can go forward that have to do with identify and agreeing on who should be a rapporteur as well as addressing the issues around funding,” Mwonzora said.

The suspension is the latest in a series of delays that included clashes last July between MDC and ZANU-PF delegates at a constitutional convention.

The form of the new constitution is a major point of contention between the rival parties in the unity government.

Paul Mangwana, the ZANU-PF committee co-chair, said the committee would approach the United Nations Development Programme and other financiers who have promised to sponsor the process.
“We cannot give a timetable of when the actual outreach will start because some of the issues are beyond our control as the select committee,” he told the official Herald newspaper.

Pic: President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe

Source: www.af.reuters.com