Chaos rocks Copac publicity campaigns

ZIMBABWE’S constitution-making process continues spiralling into chaos as the three main political parties rush the draft through a shambolic awareness campaign ahead of a referendum penciled in for March 16.

Hazel Ndebele/Paidamoyo Muzulu

The coalition government partners agreed to fast-track the draft constitution last month without proper funding and logistical planning resulting in the ongoing disorganised countrywide awareness campaigns where copies of the draft are in short supply.

Copac launched a two-week awareness blitz targeting 144 centres countrywide to popularise the draft in line with the government’s “Yes” vote in the referendum.

The targeted centres will share 92 000 copies of the draft constitution published by Copac with just two meetings being held in each of the country’s 59 districts.

About 70 000 copies are a full version of the draft and 22 000 a summarised version, of which 10 000 are in English, 10 000 in Shona, 6 000 in Ndebele and the remainder in minority languages such as Chewa, Kalanga and Tonga.

Copac national co-ordinator Gift Marunda confirmed the shortage of materials and a disjointed national awareness campaign compared to the outreach programme in 2010 that solicited people’s input to the draft during which 1 400 meetings were held.

Anyone above 18 years with a national identity card can participate in the referendum.

“We are engaging in 144 meetings because of the constrained resources,” Marunda said. “It is impossible to have a full scale outreach like the data gathering outreach that went into wards. We resolved that the awareness should only be representative.”

This week’s meetings in Harare and Bulawayo were poorly attended and some had to be rescheduled.

For example, only 25 people attended the Harare Central constituency meeting held at Queen Elizabeth High School while another held at Kuwadzana High School, had pupils comprising the majority of participants.

Even with such low attendances, participants still failed to get individual copies of the draft constitution at the meetings.

“We underestimated the huge response from the public since we had hoped that at least copies would be distributed to organisations rather than individuals,” said Marunda.

Civil society organisations like the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) and International Socialist Organisation, as well as political parties such as Mavambo/Dawn/Kusile and MDC99 have complained about the four weeks set aside to study the draft before the referendum.

NCA chairperson Lovemore Madhuku has petitioned the High Court to direct government to push back the referendum date by a month to allow for thorough debate of the draft.

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