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Zimbabwe parliament forms committee to draft new constitution

[JURIST] The Zimbabwean House Speaker announced Sunday the formation of a committee to draft a new constitution. The drafting of a new constitution was part of the power sharing agreement [JURIST report] signed last September by President Robert Mugabe [BBC Profile; JURIST news archive] and Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) [party website; JURIST news archive] leader and now-Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirari [BBC profile; JURIST news archive]. The committee will be composed [TZG report] of 25 members of parliament, including nine from Mugabe's African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), 12 from the two formations of the MDC, a chief, and three other appointed positions. The committee will meet for the first time on Monday, and hopes to have a draft of the new constitution prepared by February 2010 [Mail and Guardian report]. This would allow the draft to be introduced to parliament by October of next year and adopted by the end of 2010. Zimbabwe last attempted a constitutional referendum in 2000. That referendum was rejected due to concerns about the attempt of power that would be given to Mugabe. Following the defeat, Mugabe launched violent attacks against his opponents.

Recently, concerns have arisen regarding potential threats to the power sharing agreement when MDC treasurer Roy Bennett was indicted [JURIST report] on terrorism and other charges. In March, Bennett was released on bail [JURIST report], but is still facing a likely appeal from the attorney general. Bennett was originally sought for questioning [JURIST report] in relation to the allegations in 2006, but he had been seeking asylum in South Africa until recently [IOL report]. Treason charges against him were dropped [Times report] in favor of the terrorism and other charges.

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