Constitution-making process stalls as CIO tries to manipulate data

ZIMBABWE's constitution-making process, already far behind schedule, is slowly degenerating into a farce as it emerges data is being manipulated to favour President Mugabe's Zanu-PF.

Reports emerged this week that the Central Intelligence Organisation have seized data and manipulated it to suit Zanu-PF.

Data and files with crucial information have reportedly been stolen as the country waits for the completion of the new constitution.

A man was arrested last Friday after he seized a laptop belonging to the Constitution Select Committee, the parliamentary body charged with drafting the constitution.

The constitution-making process has stalled several times due to political haggling between Zanu-PF and the two formations of the Movement for Democratic Change .

Mugabe told state media last Sunday that he would call for snap polls with or without a new constitution.

The Constitution Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) the body mandated to produce Zimbabwe’s first democratic constitution since independence in 1980 has hired a computer expert from Kenya to be in charge of information and data processing.

The move comes in the wake of allegations of too much interference by political parties involved in the process.
 
“The committee has engaged an expert to make sure that technical errors that have occurred are corrected,” Douglas Mwonzora the committee’s co-chairperson said.

“He is an undisputed expert who was in charge of the data processing during Kenya’s constitution making process.”

The expert whose costs will be met by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) is expected to arrive in the country next week to take charge of the process.

He has specialised in the use of Hewlett-Packard computers that are being used by the committee to store information submitted by the people during the outreach exercises.

The UNDP is funding the constitution making process together with many other donors but so far it remains the main funding partner and has since made a commitment to do so until the completion of this important exercise.

Meanwhile the committee has moved to ally fears caused by reports of information tampering in the country’s constitution making process. This after Zanu (PF) officials had claimed through suggestions in the state media that the mainstream MDC party led by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai might have tempered with information that has already been
stored in the committee’s main information server.

Paul Mangwana, the committee’s co-chairperson representing Zanu (PF) this week briefed his party on the disappearing of information on issues of land, natural resources and the environment.

These are the issues that Zanu (PF) strongly campaigned for during the public outreach meetings.

Its officials immediately raised the red flag pointing fingers at MDC officials saying they could have been responsible for the removal of the information. However the Committee told journalists Friday that “no data had gone missing.”

“All the data collected was verified through a tri-partite verification process. There were just certain technical problems in
uploading information with the server,” said Douglas Mwonzora one of the three co-chairpersons of the committee.
“There are three technical experts representing the three political parties and they all confirmed there was a technical era in the posting of information in the giant server and we have no cause to disbelieve them.”

In addition the spokesperson of the Committee, Jesse Majome said, “It’s totally impossible for information to disappear because it was collected in various forms – physical and electronic forms such as
video and audio.”

The constitution making process is a key aspect of an election roadmap currently being drafted by SADC appointed facilitator President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. Other requirements of the roadmap includes the drawing up of a new voters’ roll, ending political violence and passing of new electoral rules by Parliament however none of these are in place.