The tension at the meetings in Wards 1 to 7 was palpable and the disruptions started just as the teams were being introduced. An emergency meeting with the Constitutional Select Parliamentary Committee (Copac), the police, Mashonaland West MPs, provincial party leaders, the governor, and provincial and district administrators had to be called yesterday to try and resolve the situation and ensure that meetings start today.
Earlier in the morning Zanu PF submitted a petition to the provincial heads of Copac, Editor Matamisa and Walter Chidhakwa, asking for postponement of the outreach programme until Copac deals with the confusion surrounding the process.
Matamisa confirmed to the Zimbabwe Independent that the outreach teams had to abandon the meetings after tempers flared at the meetings.
She said it was not clear why the police had not deployed 35 officers to accompany the outreach teams.
“People were angry at the meetings and it is not clear what exactly sparked it. All I can say is that we received a petition from Zanu PF questioning why there was no police deployment. They accused Copac and MDC-T of inviting people to the outreach meetings and leaving out other parties,” she said.
One of the team members told this newspaper that tension between the two main political parties was high, particularly in the evenings and there was no way any meeting could be held without the police.
In Manicaland the meetings were started as scheduled on Wednesday, while in Masvingo, Midlands and Mashonaland Central they started yesterday. Mashonaland East said it was not ready to start yesterday. In Matabeleland South and the Midlands the Central Mechanical and Engineering Department (CMED) refused to release vehicles for the process, demanding to be paid in advance for the vehicles.
Meanwhile, Copac has given in to demands from MPs to hire out their vehicles to the constitution-making body for the outreach programme.
MPs had initially threatened not to take part in the outreach programme unless their vehicles were hired.
Copac will pay US$80 per vehicle a day and this means that the MPs will reap US$7 040 on top of the US$2 200 allowances they will each receive from the exercise. The MPs will get a further 22 cents for every kilometre their vehicles will travel.
Copac co-chairperson, Douglas Mwonzora however refuted claims that the legislators threatened Copac over the vehicle hire issue.
“Legislators applied to have their cars used in the process just like other ordinary citizens. There was nothing arranged for the MPs and they are also Zimbabweans and they can have their cars used for the exercise,” Mwonzora said.
Copac had to engage the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs and the Ministry of Transport to intervene before the vehicles were released late on Tuesday night.
Mwonzora confirmed the delays in release of the vehicles.
“All outreach teams have been deployed. However, there are some provinces, such as Matabeleland North and South where outreaches were not carried out today (Wednesday) because the CMED only released vehicles on Tuesday night,” he said.
“The CMED insisted on full payment of the vehicles before they released them. The Minister for Constitution and Parliamentary Affairs as well as the Minister for Transport had to be called in to negotiate with CMED to release the vehicles.”
Copac appointed the CMED as their transport manager. The CMED then advertised for people who were interested in hiring out their vehicles for the outreach programmes.
Mwonzora added that the delay in the outreach kick-off was also because the equipment which is to be used in the collection of data was only distributed on Wednesday.
“The United Nations Development Population delayed in releasing equipment to be used in the collection and collation of data and the equipment was only released on Wednesday,” said Mwonzora.
Faith Zaba/Loughty Dube