Zimbabweans from Monday face a grueling 65 day task in which they will be asked to make contributions towards a home grown constitution.
President Robert Mugabe and his long time rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Wednesday officially launched the “Constitution Outreach Programme”.
Currently the southern African country relies on the 1979 Lancaster House Constitution that gave birth to independence in 1980 and has been amended a record 19 times.
However, Zimbabweans in the diaspora would be excluded from the constitution making process due to lack of funds as the parliamentary select committee does not have financial resources to visit locals outside the country to gather their views on the process.
About three million skilled and unskilled Zimbabweans have fled the country to neighbouring nations like South Africa and Botswana and to overseas nations over the years in search of better paying jobs and living conditions.
Co-chair of a parliamentary select committee which was set to monitor the initial 65 day process in January, Douglas Mwonzora, had promised to “engage those in the Diaspora in this process”. According to him “Principals of the Inclusive Government have no business in this issue because they are bound by the GPA, which says every Zimbabwean must participate in the process, and we can not ignore more than 4 million people who are in the Diaspora”.
The Zimbabwe Diaspora, which remits at least US$ 550 million per year to the Zimbabwe Economy (more than a quarter of Zimbabwe’s GDP), have been lobbying for their involvement saying they are contributing significantly to the economy of the country.
But the constitutional making process is already several months behind schedule due to cooperation problems in the power-sharing government. The outreach process is expected to take 65 days and there will be 2,860 meeting countrywide.
The process is divided into three complicated phases. First, the general public is asked for advice, then several groups of stakeholders and politicians have their say. The final draft is put under a referendum the fresh elections.
Though no specific date for elections is mentioned under the Global Political Agreement (GPA), which gave birth to the current government, both Mugabe and Tsvangirai have suggested that elections will take place in 2011. Mugabe has even stated that there will be elections, with or without a new constitution.
Speaking during the launch Tsvangirai said he was “aware that some elements had attempted to sabotage the process” – indirectly pointing to Mugabe standing at his right side – but added that they would never succeed in subverting the will of the people.
Said Tsvangirai, “The world is watching both the process and the content, to the final draft. To the people of Zimbabwe I say it’s up to you to determine the nature of our new constitution.
“I encourage Zimbabweans to resist any intimidation aimed at influencing the process. The nation will not forgive those who try to disrupt the process. Let us all unite and participate in the process. Our new constitution must and will be a lasting legacy.”
Mugabe on his part urged Zimbabweans to show tolerance and shun violence saying that “at the top we are agreed that there should be no violence”.