Arrests could delay referendum — Mwonzora

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The constitutional referendum might not be held by September if disturbances such as the unnecessary arrest of key Copac personnel continue, Copac co-chairman Douglas Mwonzora has said.

Mwonzora (MDC-T) told NewsDay other factors that might hinder the holding of a referendum by September included bureaucratic processes in the availing of funds to the Parliament-led constitution-making body, Copac.

“Issues of harassment and unjustified arrests of key Copac personnel can cause delays of the referendum. Due to my incarceration two months ago, Copac lost a total of one month because we proceed on the basis of consensus where every political party must be represented,” said Mwonzora.

“We are not saying wrongdoers must not be arrested, but they must not be unjustly detained and demobilised. I was arrested and given bail but the Attorney-General, Johannes Tomana, kept me in custody for three weeks unnecessarily.”

However, Copac co-chairman Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana (Zanu PF) described Mwonzora’s comments as “nonsensical” saying his incarceration did not disturb the Copac process.

“That is nonsense; he is not Copac and his party is represented by nine people. We continued doing what was supposed to be done. We are sympathetic of his incarceration but he is only one of the nine MDC-T contingents and there was no prejudice to Copac because the other representatives did the job,” said Mangwana.
Mwonzora also said other delays might be caused by late disbursement of funds pledged by donors and government.

“When it comes to donor funding there is a lot of bureaucracy in government which has its own well known delays. If all these problems are factored in, it is possible that the constitutional referendum might be delayed,” he said.

Mwonzora also warned that during the constitution-making process’s thematic committee stage set to begin on May 3, violence might be witnessed if police fail to put in stringent measures to quash it.

He said about 450 people from different political parties would attend thematic committee stage, which would require law enforcement agents to be alert to ensure there was no repeat of the chaos witnessed during the first All Stakeholders Conference last year, where war veterans disrupted the proceedings and poured water at delegates, while chanting Zanu PF songs.

“State machinery must move fast to ensure mechanisms are put in place so that there is minimum disturbance during that stage.”