Groundbreaking Diaspora Constitution Conference

Gabriel Shumba, a lawyer who became an activist for torture victims is the ZEF executive director, and he will be joined by distinguished guests including Arnold Tsunga, the Africa Director of the International Commission of Jurists, and Zimbabwe’s Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Eric Matinenga, who will give the keynote address.

Fears are being raised that those in the United Kingdom might be left out in the process following their rowdy behaviour last week at the Southwalk Cathedral.

Transitional justice issues within the constitution-making process will be addressed by Glen Mpani, the regional co-ordinator of the Transitional Justice Programme at the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation, and Wellington Chibebe, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions secretary general, will chair a session of the constitution, with another presentation on universally accepted standards of constitutional reform and constitution-making by Tererai Mafukidze, a programme co-ordinator at the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Piers Pigou, Senior Associate, International Centre for Transitional Justice, and Dr Lovemore Madhuku the chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, will also be discussing how inclusive the inclusive government is and what the term "people driven constitution” means.

An NCA co-ordinator Munjodzi Mutandiri and Dzimbabwe Chimbga, a legal officer for the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, will discuss among other issues, the Do’s and Don’ts of constitution-making, basing on the experiences from the Lancaster House, Chidyausiku, Kariba, MDC and NCA Constitutions

Justice Michael Majuru a former judge of the High Court of Zimbabwe will discuss the the Centrality of Separation of Powers in the Proposed Constitution in what promises to be a groundbreaking conference on Zimbabwe’s constitutional future.

Zimbabwe on Wednesday launched efforts to write a new constitution to pave the way to fresh elections, a key step in the power-sharing pact meant to haul the country from a decade of turmoil.

"We count on our inner strength as a people and on our unflinching determination to turn a new page in our lives as Zimbabweans despite many obstacles," parliament speaker Lovemore Moyo told foreign diplomats.

Speaking ahead of the first public meeting on the constitution later in the day, Moyo urged the diplomatic community to support the process.

"The constitution-making process is taking place in an environment of acute resource constraints," Moyo said. "We call upon you, your excellencies, to lend your support to this process. We are happy with the progress made so far despite limited resources."

In April, parliament elected 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 to spearhead the process.

Under the accord that created the unity government four months ago, a new constitution should be tabled in parliament by February, with a referendum on the charter held by July.

Moyo also assured the diplomats that the constitution-building process will be transparent, and not manipulated by politicians.

"As parliament we want to make sure that this process is as open, transparent, democratic and as inclusive as possible in order to accommodate the views of all Zimbabweans."

The unity deal aims to end political unrest that erupted after disputed elections last year, forcing Mugabe – Zimbabwe’s only ruler since independence in 1980 – into a power-sharing deal with his rival Tsvangirai.