Use of technology gadgets intimidates villagers

HARARE The filming of public hearings is stifling contributions from villagers and making a mockery of the constitution making process.

The use of computers, dual videocassette recorders, digital versatile disc players, digital cameras, video cameras, and digital voice recorders, risk completely scaring out legitimate debate on Zimbabwe’s new constitution.

A member of the parliamentary select committee leading the constitutional outreach programmes (COPAC) said the recording equipment was sourced by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) for US$ 6.5 million to avert manipulation of people’s views and provide a vivid record of the proceedings.

In one case, a villager in Mahusekwa in Mashonaland East told The Zimbabwean on Tuesday:

This is the dominant thinking in this village, that the cameras are part of machinery being employed to sniff out those who deviate from Zanu (PF)’s prepared script, which has been coached to the villagers using traditional chiefs.

A leading rights group, ZimRights, reported that participants to the public hearings at Matepatepa Country Club and Number One Play Center in Bindura, Mashonaland Central province were reading prepared scripts.

Clearly in this case people are being denied a right to freely air out their views, ZimRights said. The fear runs deep here among villagers, the majority of who bore the brunt of the violent attacks by war veterans and militias in the last election in 2008.

The COPAC official said she was deeply concerned about the

COPAC has also comprehensively gagged the media from discussing sensitive issues by banning officials from speaking to the media.

COPAC’s cochair, Paul Mangwana, denied at a news conference in Harare that the cameras were intimidating villagers and said the suggestion was

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