By Tichaona Sibanda
23 July 2010
The constitutional outreach program, meant to gather people’s views on the new constitution, has exposed the deep political polarization and intolerance that still exists between ZANU PF and MDC supporters.
Since the program resumed this week, after a week long break, tension, friction and shouting matches have characterized most of the meetings. Even signaling your intention to contribute a view by raising a hand, has now been politicized by the participants.
When MDC supporters want to contribute to debate, they raise their hands as any other person would do. And here lies the problem. An open palm is a gesture linked to the MDC party symbol. In retaliation, ZANU PF supporters have resorted to raising their hands— fists clenched— a style made popular by Mugabe when sloganeering.
Our correspondent Simon Muchemwa said it was clear there is still much animosity between supporters of ZANU PF and the MDC. He said these incidents, and many others being observed at the meetings, are clear indicators of the dark cloud of political polarization and intolerance characterizing the political terrain in the country.
‘At times you witness shouting matches when people try to put across their party positions. This is happening in meetings mainly in rural areas where deep mistrust among the supporters still exist, Muchemwa said.
He said the program is beset with administrative problems, ranging from lack of accommodation to shortages of funds for outreach teams. Some COPAC members threatened to down tools this week when they failed to get their allowances.
‘There’s a serious problem out there and COPAC seems to be failing to cope with the crisis. Some people are going hungry because they are not being paid their allowances,’ Muchemwa added.
There are a total of 70 outreach teams, totaling 700 people, deployed countrywide. They will spend two months gathering the views of the public on the new constitution which will replace the negotiated 1979 Lancaster House constitution.