'Stalemate' deals further blow to new Zimbabwe constitution

HARARE – Work on Zimbabwe's long-delayed constitution has stalled again, with President Robert Mugabe's party complaining on Monday of a "stalemate" in compiling opinions gathered during months of public outreach.

Drafting a new constitution is a crucial step in preparing for new elections that would replace the rocky unity government formed between Mugabe and his rival, Morgan Tsvangirai, after presidential polls violently failed in 2008.

“The stalemate is as a result of differences with other parties on what approach or template to use to consolidate the reports that were received from the wards,” said Paul Mangwana, the top official working on the charter for Mugabe’s Zanu-PF party.

“The management committee will be meeting either today [Monday] or sometime this week to review the problems,” he said.

Zanu-PF wants to rank submissions according to the number of times an issue was raised during the outreach meetings, he said.

Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change prefers an approach based on the quality of the submissions.

Behind schedule

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Work on the constitution is already running a year behind schedule. Drafters had targeted September for a referendum on the charter, but that date seems less likely with each new delay.

Mangwana also hinted that more money is needed to complete the process.

“We had set September as when the referendum should be held, but we need $1.8-million to reach drafting stage and right now that money is not there,” he said.

Public outreach on the constitution began in 2009 after the unity government was sworn in, but has been repeatedly disrupted and marred by violence. One Tsvangirai supporter died when pro-Mugabe militants stoned a meeting in September 2010.

The unity accord calls for a new constitution and amended media and election laws to ensure free and fair polls.

Although no dates have been set for fresh polls, Mugabe wants elections this year. Tsvangirai wants reforms in place first to ensure a level playing field before the elections. — AFP