Compounding the situation are reports of political motivated violence and intimidation in and around the country during the outreach exercise. Several civil society organisations, monitoring the outreach
exercise, this week released separate reports chronicling incidents of violence in Mashonaland Central, Midlands, Masvingo, Manicaland and Matabeleland provinces.
Eric Matinenga, the Minister of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, said there were serious concerns within COPAC and from the outreach teams over the poor management of the exercise.
“There has been perception within COPAC on the inefficiency regarding the manner in which the secretariat was handling the business. People should know where they stand regarding other people they do business
with within the context that this process must go ahead,” he said.
Douglas Mwonzora, one of the co-chairpersons of COPAC, said the committee responsible for the outreach, was reviewing progress of the consultative process with a view of ringing some changes.
“We are currently reviewing the outreach and everything associated to it, ranging from preparations to duties of the COPAC staff to find out what actual went wrong,” said Mwonzora.
“We are going to meet again as the select committee over the issue of management of the process but we are not targeting an individual,” he said.
Some members of the outreach teams are reported to have been booted out of hotels after COPAC failed to pay for the accommodation.
In a hastily arranged press conference on Thursday, Paul Munyaradzi Mangwana, the Zanu (PF) co-chairperson of COPAC, said logistic challenges, especially getting equipment and personnel to the
provinces, were a major set-back but claimed that these had been solved.
“Although there were challenges when the process started, there has been some progress in areas where meetings have been held. One of our major challenges continue to be that of funding,” said Mangwana.
“We still have limited resources and this is what is hampering our process. We have brought this to the attention of the government and donors. We are currently working on a supplementary budget,” he said.
Three civil society members, shadowing the outreach process, were on Sunday allegedly assaulted by Zanu (PF) agent provocateurs, sustaining varying degrees of injuries.
The monitors were deployed by the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights that have dispatched a total of 420 independent monitors.
In another separate report the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) reported violence in Mudzi district in Mashonaland East were four huts allegedly belonging to suspected Movement for
Democratic Change (MDC) were torched.
In Manicaland Province two monitors, Tapera Mavherevhedze and Godfrey Nyarota and
driver Cornelius Chengu were arrested last week and charged under Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act (AIPPA).
There were accusations that Zanu (PF) supporters had been seen reading from prepared scripts during outreach meetings specifically at Matepatepa Country Club and Number One Play Center in Bindura
Mashonaland Central Province.
“Both meetings were characterised by high levels of tension between opposing party members. That participants had to rely on party written scripts to make contributions is a serious cause for concern given
that a constitutional making process must be non partisan and people driven. Clearly in this case people are being denied a right to freely air out their views. The absence of the police at both meetings did not help the matters either,” said ZimRights in its latest report.
The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition said it had noted with concern that participants were being intimidated.
The organisation specifically referred to a specific incident at Sikosana primary school in Makonde district in Mashonaland West, attended by about 1200 on June 28 where only five people contributed.
“There was no debate at all, those that participated were referring to position papers that had been distributed by their parties with the rest of the people merely acting as cheerleaders.”
Monitors have also reported lack of participation in Matabeleland South where COPAC outreach teams arrived late at most venues. COPAC teams in Matabeleland South, according to the NGO reports, were
accused of censoring the views of the public. Discussion or any talk of the early 1980s disturbances in the province was allegedly outlawed during the outreach exercise in some of the areas of Matabeleland
In Sadza and Manyarira areas in Mashonaland East province, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition claimed that the District Administrator “was moving around in an unmarked white vehicle coaching people on what to
say just before the COPAC meetings started in different wards. The truck was seen at Manyere and Rupere primary schools.”
The organisation coalition also reported that Zanu (PF) supporters disrupted outreach meetings in Chinhoyi prompting COPAC teams deployed to various centers to be recalled, charges Zanu (PF) spokesman Rugare Gumbo disputed.
“At Gadzema Domestic Signs Crèche, the Zanu PF supporters demanded to know what the outreach team was doing in the area before vandalizsng one of our vehicles,’ said a COPAC member who refused to be named.
“More than 100 community members, who had gathered for the meeting, were forced to return to their homes,” he said.
But Gumbo said the reports accusing Zanu (PF) of wrong doing were being peddled by detractors of Zanu (PF) and Zimbabwe.
While the ZPP, ZESN and ZLHR named Paul Nechishanu, Artwel Katandika and Shingirayi Garira as the three independent monitors allegedly assaulted by some Zanu (PF) youths at Scarffel Farm, Glynamel Farm and Baguta Primary School, police spokesman said no reports of violence had been brought to the police’s attention.
“We are not aware of these reports of violence. We are adequately deployed for the outreach exercise,” said Bvudzijena.
But the NGOs said three monitors were assaulted by logs by the Zanu (PF) ouths, claiming Garira sustained injuries on his eardrum while Nechishanu and Katandika suffered head injuries.
Police spokesman Wayne Bvudzijena said: “We have police officers who are fully deployed in respective areas for the outreach programme, but we have not yet received reports on acts of violence.”
The proposed new constitution, which is part of the requirements of the power-sharing deal between Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and Deputy Premier Arthur Mutambara, will replace the current Lancaster House Constitution written in 1979 which has been amended 19 times since independence in 1980.
The constitution making process is already behind schedule by nearly nine months.