AP News

Zimbabwe president: Constitution changes on track


HARARE, Zimbabwe (AP) — Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has assured regional leaders that adoption of a new constitution is on track, ahead of proposed elections to end the nation's fragile coalition government, his loyalist state media reported Wednesday.

Mugabe met with South African President Jacob Zuma, the chief regional mediator on Zimbabwe, on the sidelines of the United Nations general assembly in New York late Tuesday, the Herald newspaper reported.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the former opposition leader, has declared that the talks for constitutional reforms have become deadlocked.

The 15-nation regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community, set far-reaching democratic and constitutional reforms as a condition for free elections after violent and disputed polls in 2008.

Mugabe told Zuma that a stakeholders' conference on the constitution is set to go ahead in Harare next month and regional leaders "will not be let down," the Herald said.

It said Mugabe insisted two documents will be put to the conference — the 150-page draft constitution and a national statistical report on opinions on proposed changes gathered at public meetings across the country by an all-party panel of lawmakers in charge of rewriting the existing constitution.

Mugabe's ZANU-PF party says the new draft omits some of the views of its supporters who opposed the dilution of powers that the party and Mugabe have held since independence in 1980.

Tsvangirai's party officials charge the statistical report is not a true reflection of recorded opinions that were skewed by several "quantative not qualitative" factors, including groups of the same Mugabe supporters being bussed to many of the public meetings.

The lawmakers' panel on Wednesday announced it has rescheduled the constitutional conference from Oct.4 to Oct.13, citing cash shortages and delays in collecting funding for the gathering of 2,500 delegates from main interested groups.

It said it was also scaling down the number accredited to participate.

The Crisis Coalition, Zimbabwe's main alliance of independent civic groups, has threatened to boycott the conference if the widest national interests are not catered for.

A similar constitutional conference in 2009 was abandoned after it was disrupted by militants of Mugabe's party who sang revolutionary songs and shouted down successive speakers contributing to the debate.


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