SW Radio Africa news - The Independent Voice of Zimbabwe

Outreach program begins as soldiers set up bases in rural areas

By Tichaona Sibanda
21 June 2010

The Constitutional Parliamentary Committee (COPAC) was on Monday overseeing the deployment of seventy outreach teams of 10 members each to the country’s 10 provinces.

COPAC, which spearheads the programme to gather the public’s views on the proposed new constitution, has said a total of 5 803 meetings will be convened in the 1 937 wards throughout the 10 provinces of the country.

But while COPAC was busy deploying teams countrywide, the army has already set up bases for its soldiers at some of the rural district offices.

SW Radio Africa is reliably informed that soldiers camped at Masasa business centre in Buhera central and Mutiusinazita in Buhera south have been force-marching villagers to ZANU PF meetings for indoctrination.

A top official in the MDC told us the armed soldiers were deployed to the areas a week ago, with specific orders to instruct villagers what to do and say during the outreach programme.

‘The soldiers have had a head start. They’re patrolling the areas, force marching people to ZANU PF meetings. While the villagers are getting instructions of what they will say, they are privately informing us they will not go along with ZANU PF ideology over the drafting of a new constitution,’ the MDC-T official said.

The deployment of soldiers comes amid reports that COPAC was forced to remove from its outreach teams an army officer accused of being part of the group that spearheaded the violence that rocked the country ahead of the June 2008 presidential runoff election.

Brigadier General Douglas Nyikayaramba, who was also instrumental in the failed prosecution of several MDC-T MPs on charges that they abused Operation Maguta inputs, had been seconded to COPAC by ZANU PF.

Following massive protestations from other parties that a serving soldier could not represent a political party in the constitutional process, Nyikayaramba was removed from the outreach teams.

While participation at the meetings is purely voluntary ZANU PF has reportedly been busy intimidating people and threatening them with dire consequences if they attended the meetings.

Elton Mangoma, the MDC-T deputy treasurer-general, addressed several rallies in Mashonaland central province where he castigated those involved in the intimidation. A statement from the MDC on Monday said Mangoma told party activists people were doing this out of sheer ignorance.

‘They are not aware that they are eating into their own future. They are forgetting that the future is theirs and they are sabotaging their opportunity to make this nation work again. Our young people need to be made aware that the process they intend to block is the same process that will liberate them forever,’ Mangoma said.

Our Harare correspondent Simon Muchemwa said cases of intimidation were on a wide scale in both urban and rural areas. He said ZANU PF war veterans and youth militia were targeting people who benefited from party led projects.

‘In urban areas they are targeting market stall holders and beneficiaries of houses from operation Garikai. Those with houses are being told they will be evicted if they don’t toe the party line. These include people resettled at Hopley farm, south of Harare and those near the Snake Park just outside the capital on the Harare-Bulawayo road,’ Muchemwa said.

He said the first week of the programme will see teams visiting all major urban centres in the country like Bulawayo, Harare, Gwanda, Mutare, Gweru, Chinhoyi, Marondera, Bindura, and Hwange.

We were able to ascertain that most of the outreach deployed on Monday spent most of the afternoon sorting out their lodgings. On Tuesday they are expected to start with accreditation before undergoing a formal induction course at selected provincial centres.

Teams are expected to move into communities by Wednesday. COPAC has managed to source 265 vehicles, 210 megaphones, 210 audio recorders and 70 video recorders for use during the information gathering process which is expected to run for 65 working days.

It is hoped the country will produce a new constitution by April 2011, leading to fresh elections.

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