Zimbabwe on track with new constitution: SADC

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

In July riot police had to break up clashes between delegates attending a constitutional convention — a sign of the tensions between Robert Mugabe and his rival, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

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

"I am very confident that Zimbabwe will come out with an answer to the problems of Zimbabwe, including the constitutional dispensation," Prince Guduza Dlamini, president of the Southern African Development Community’s (SADC) parliamentary forum, told Reuters.

Dlamini was speaking on the sidelines of the opening session of the two-day conference of the Association of European Parliamentarians for Africa (AWEPA), taking place about 40 km (25 miles) north of Cape Town.

Dlamini did not say when the SADC, which helped broker the formation of Zimbabwe’s unity government, wanted a new constitution to be completed.

The convention in July was part of a process which should lead to the adoption of a new constitution and to elections in about two years.  

Many Western countries want the constitution adopted and reforms to get under way before they will provide billions of dollars in aid to help rebuild Zimbabwe, and Dlamini said the charter could have a positive impact on Zimbabwe’s neighbours.

"We are all interdependent, so if country X is having problems, those problems are going to filter through to some of the member countries. If we are able to live up to the expectations of the community (SADC), we believe we will develop together," said Dlamini, also the Speaker of Swaziland’s parliament.

Dlamini said an SADC delegation visted Zimbabwe last month on a fact-finding mission and the SADC parliamentary forum would hold its next plenary meeting in Zimbabwe sometime in October. Reuters