Zimbabwe exiles begin Constitution Consultation

ZIMBABWEAN organisations based in the United Kingdom have chosen a task force to lead in the process of making sure that all Zimbabweans in the UK have an opportunity to participate in drafting the nation's new constitution.

The meeting, held on Saturday, 24th October 2009, at Forest Gate in London was attended by representatives of civil society groups, religious leaders and political parties.

The attending organisations agreed to form a coalition whose terms are defined in a Memorandum of Understanding to be signed on Wednesday 28th October 2009.They chose a task force of 10 namely, Zeb Manatse from the Zimbabwe Christian Leaders UK as Chairperson, Lois Davies, Zimbabwe Diaspora Development Interface as Secretary and Co-ordinator, Leslie R Maruziva from the ZG Club as the Treasurer, Thamsanqa Zhou ,from Kwa-Zhou Foundation/ GZF was nominated as the Spokesperson.

Linda Bikinesi from Girl Child Network Worldwide was nominated Events Management. Also included in the taskforce was Robert Gonouya from the Zimbabwe Action Group, Sam Takavarasha Jr from the Movement for Democratic Change and Lucia Dube from the Zimbabwe Community Association.

The task force also roped in non affiliated professionals Dr Knox Chitiyo and Lloyd Msipa to head sub commitees in their areas of expertise.

Opening the meeting, Leslie Maruziva from the ZG Club said: "A Constitution is a lifelong document and we all need to put our heads together and form a coalition to do this work."

His sentiments were echoed by ZCLUK Director Qobolwakhe Mayisa who said: "We believe that we are doing this for Zimbabweans and the future of our nations. For us it will be important that we have an all inclusive process. Now we have an opportunity that involves others."

The task force chosen will lead in a consultation process that is intended to reach all Zimbabweans exiled in the United Kingdom. ZAPU Secretary for Communication & Marketing Zenzo Ncube said afterwards that, he wanted to make sure issues of dual citizenship and voting rights for the Diaspora were included in the new constitution.

In 2000, Zimbabweans voted against a constitution that had been proposed by the Government, in a referendum.

Zimbabwe is currently using a constitution based on the 1979 Lancaster House Agreement that gave Zimbabwe independence in 1980. The constitution has been amended a total of nineteen times, the last of which came in the middle of the political crisis in 2008 resulting in a Government of National Unity (GNU).

The current effort is part of the Global Political Agreement (GPA) provision when the two MDC formations signed a MoU with ZANU PF on 15th September 2008. One of the key commitments by the parties to the agreement was the facilitation of a new constitution after which, fresh elections would be held.

The GNU has tasked an interparty committee to undertake the consultation process. There are 17 thematic committees to which submission will be made following consultation with ordinary Zimbabweans. A referendum is proposed after the final draft.

The timetable for the task is very tight. The UK task force plans to host a constitutional conference as soon as the consultation process is concluded.

The spirit of inclusivity was summed up by UK based Zimbabwean lawyer Lloyd Msipa who called on all parties to come forward and participate in a non partisan process. All Zimbabwean organisations in the UK who could not attend are encouraged to contact the co-ordinator of the task force Lois Davies at info@zimdiasporainterface.org and be part of the process.

At the end of the historic day, Manatse said: "Today was one of those days when you bring a group of people together for a very important reason. Let us work together and make this a success."