Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Catholic journal warns of possible more draconian Zimbabwe laws

Harare, 18 August (ENI)--A Roman Catholic journal has warned that a new constitution proposed for Zimbabwe could be worse than the current one if politicians lead the process to craft the document and civil society is left out.

"The working premise is that the constitution should be of the people, written by the people and for the people, and without the participation of the people at all levels and with the control of the government, we risk having a more draconian constitution than ever before," the Catholic Church News said in an editorial in its August-September issue.

"The people should not only be involved on the constitution-making process but they should own both the process and the outcome. The government should not waste resources purporting to consult the people on the constitution they want and later manipulate the people's views and opinions," The journal stated

Zimbabwe's new power-sharing government launched a campaign in July to gather contributions for a new constitution that aim to pave the way for new elections in 2011. But some civil society groups which have assembled under the umbrella of the National Constitutional Assembly have refused to be part of the process led by the government.

"Some civil society organizations and churches have objected to a process led by politicians because it will be premised on protecting the interests of those who rule while alienating the interests of those who matter, the constituents," the Catholic publication noted.

The current constitution has been tinkered with several times at the behest of veteran President Robert Mugabe's Zanu-PF party which won elections from 1980 until it lost the parliamentary vote in an election in 2008 and Mugabe lost the first round of the presidential poll. He won the run-off election after his opponent withdrew, citing widespread intimidation.

The Students Christian Movement of Zimbabwe in the meantime has criticised the country's attorney-general over what they view as a biased handling of cases involving members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party. "To date more than eight MDC legislators have either been convicted or are facing trial for various unfounded and fabricated allegations being peddled by Zanu-PF machinists," the students' statement said.

"If the so-called attorney-general is so eager to play his duty why then was he silent and is still silent on Zanu-PF perpetrators of violence in the run-up to last year's June 27 presidential run-off," the students group said. "There were a number of cases of people who were hurt, killed, displaced and some raped and yet to date nothing has been done to effect the arrest of the perpetrators who are mostly Zanu-PF."

The statement followed a series of arrests of lawmakers and office bearers from Tsvangirai's MDC party, which is part of a government of national unity with Mugabe's party. Those arrested include the deputy minister for youth Thamsanqa Mahlangu who was detained after being accused of stealing a mobile phone belonging to a leader of a war veterans' association renowned for backing Mugabe's policies. [510 words]

Ecumenical News International

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