The Herald (Harare)

22 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Copac Ropes in NGOs

Copac has roped in non-governmental organisations to print, distribute and campaign for the draft constitution but also expressed fears about conduct of such organisations in the agreement to be signed to operationalise the deal. The suspicions the parlimentary body has are contained in the prohibition clause of the Memorandum of Agreement which forbids the organisations from printing the draft without written consent from the body.

The civic organisations would be expected not to disseminate any other draft which did not originate from Copac and not alter, amend or interfere with the contents of the draft.

Copac co-chairperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said at a meeting with civic groups yesterday that they would tightly monitor their operations after they sign the agreement. The meeting was attended by civic groups that included ZimRights, Crisis Coalition, Institute for a Democratic Alternative for Zimbabwe, Veritas and Zimbabwe Women Resource Centre Network, which are likely to partner Copac.

"All we want is for us to work together and with this MoA we are saying you are agencies of Copac.What we are trying to do is to promote the document and we are saying be our agents. Because they will be under Copac, we will supervise them to ensure that they stick to what we have agreed on," said Mr Mwonzora.

"I do not think we will have any problems because most civil groups have shown support of the draft," said Mr Mwonzora.

Mr Mwonzora said they would not work with those organisations opposing the draft.

"We will not provide any logistical support to groups opposed to the adoption of the draft," he said.

"They should, however, be allowed to freely campaign for their position."

Another Copac co-chairperson Cde Paul Mangwana said: "Today we are inviting civil society to join us and hold public awareness programmes among your members and anyone who is sympathetic to your causes. We are asking civil society to actively participate in public awareness and we will also be working very closely with the media to ensure that there is awareness of the draft.

"Our task is to deliver the draft constitution to the people so that when they vote on March 16 they know why they are voting yes."

Cde Mangwana defended the invitation to civic groups, saying most of them were involved in the constitution making process from the beginning and that the Global Political Agreement provided for their involvement.

Under the MoA, the participating civic groups would, "sensitise members of the public on the draft on the progress and outcome of the constitution making process, create partnerships in publicising the draft constitution, educate the members of the public on its contents and get public acceptance of the draft constitution."

Civic groups that have the resources would be allowed to print additional copies of the draft for distribution to members of the public. Mr Mwonzora said they would engage the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Commissioner General of Police, Augustine Chihuri to have some provisions of the Public Order and Security Act relaxed to enable people to campaign freely ahead of the referendum.

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