A critical outreach process to record citizens’ opinions on what they want included in the new constitution ground to a halt on Wednesday because there was no money to buy fuel for the exercise. Copac co-chairperson Douglas Mwonzora (above) said the programme would resume soon.
Outreach teams countrywide were left stranded after suppliers refused to release fuel because of non-payment for 60 000 litres of the product which had been supplied on credit.
“The funding arrangement by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) must change from direct payment to advance payment such that Copac handles the cash,” said Mwonzora. “Copac can account for the money and we can also have auditors. That can greatly improve the situation.”
Under the current system, Copac only identifies suppliers of services. The UNDP and government pay the service providers directly, a situation Copac officials say has contributed to the slow pace of the reforms.
The UNDP is assisting in mobilising funds from donors after government said it could only afford part of the expenses needed to successfully complete the constitutional reforms.
This week’s incident was only part of several occurrences where constitutional reforms have been affected by cash shortages.
Mwonzora blamed bureaucracy at the UNDP for late payments of services resulting in outreach teams being ejected from hotels, and the shortage of fuel.
Only recently drivers contracted to the project refused to work because of late payments of their allowances.
He said government was also delaying releasing funds, with only US$300 000 disbursed instead of US$2,5 million it had committed to the process.
Donors and government have refused to accept previous requests by Copac to change the payment system.
Mwonzora, however, said Copac would increase pressure on the matter after the latest incident involving fuel shortages.
“It’s embarrassing that we always make promises, but default. We want to have the money in our hands for the project to succeed,” said Mwonzora.
The drafting of a new constitution is part of President Robert Mugabe, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his deputy Arthur Mutambara’s power-sharing agreement signed in September 2008.
The new charter is expected to lay the foundation for future free and fair elections as well as ensure political stability.
Zimbabweans hope the new constitution will also guarantee human rights, civil, political and media freedoms. — Staff Writer.