Zimbabwe prepares for new Constitution hearings

Parliament has approved the $36-million budget for the reform process and several donors have come forward saying they are interested in contributing, the official said on condition of anonymity.

"The budget was approved by Parliament on Monday and donors have expressed interest in funding the project," said the official, who is close to the reform process.

The Parliament elected in April a 25-member committee drawn from members of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) to spearhead the process, which is expected to take 18 months.

The drawing-up of a new Constitution was one of the main conditions of the power-sharing agreement which Mugabe and Tsvangirai signed in February, ending months of political crisis following disputed elections.

The former rivals agreed that a draft Constitution should be tabled in parliament by February next year, while a referendum should be held a few months later in July.

A senior member of the cross-party committee, Douglas Mwonzora, expressed optimism that the process would be different from 10 years ago when Zimbabweans rejected reforms seen as giving too many powers to Mugabe.

"The difference between 1999 and 2009 is that we have an inclusive government. We have a major political force which was in opposition, now in government," he said. – AFP