… Amid poor attendance at constitutional publicity meetings

SIGNS that the public is fast losing interest in the current constitution-making process are growing, with Copac and the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs organising poorly attended publicity meetings to raise awareness of the new draft constitution ahead of the referendum next month.

Report by Hazel Ndebele

This has raised fears the referendum on the constitution set for March 16 –– ahead of elections later this year –– will possibly be characterised by apathy.

As part of its publicity campaign, the Ministry of Constitutional and Parliamentary affairs held a low-key meeting this week on Wednesday in Marondera at a local country club.

The meeting was expected to raise public awareness on the draft constitution.

However, only 231 people attended the meeting, showing that the decision by the political parties in the coalition government to collectively support a ‘Yes’ campaign could cause apathy among voters who now see the outcome a foregone conclusion.

Commenting on the low turnout Constitutional Affairs minister Eric Matinenga told the Zimbabwe Independent he was disappointed by the apathy as he thought many would attend the meeting, particularly civil society organisations.

“Everyone has the right to understand the draft constitution whether they will vote ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in the referendum,” Matinenga said. Asked if he was satisfied with the attendance, he said: “People had been invited and it was their choice whether to come or not”.

Mashonaland East governor Aeneas Chigwedere, who was also present at the publicity meeting, expressed concern about the low attendance.

He said most people present were the provincial officials and not ordinary people, hence the need for widespread publicity campaigns.

Compared to the period during the 2000 Constitutional Commission draft publicity blitz before the referendum, the current process is characterised by public disinterest. The majority of the people who attended the Marondera meeting said they had been unaware of the campaign.

Matingena was yesterday expected to hold another meeting in Murewa. Some meetings have already been held in Mvurwi and Bindura.

Copac is expected to hold one meeting in each district while Matingena is going convene two meetings per province.

Top