, HARARE, Jun 17 – Zimbabwe\’s veteran President Robert Mugabe and his one-time rival Morgan Tsvangirai launched a joint drive Wednesday to draft a new constitution, urging people to show tolerance and shun violence.
"At the top we are agreed that there should be no violence," Mugabe said at the launch attended by legislators from his ZANU-PF party and from Prime Minister Tsvangirai\’s Movement for Democratic Change.
"We don\’t want that among our followers. We may differ. Let\’s sometimes accept to differ," said the 86-year-old, Africa\’s oldest leader.
An agreement to draw up a new constitution was part of the deal under which Tsvangirai entered a government of national unity last year in a deal brokered by southern African leaders.
Mugabe, who has led the former British colony since independence in 1980, said that the process to forge a new constitution should be all-inclusive.
"We are now a sovereign people unihibited by anyone else except those who want to interfere in our domestic affairs who are doing it illegally," he said.
"We will allow the people to debate the nature of the government they want. We must also look at various practices elsewhere and allow the people to make their choice.
"We are working as three entities in the main. We are the drivers."
Teams of lawmakers and representatives of political parties and other interest groups will be deployed at the weekend to gather the views to draft a new constitution to pave the way for fresh elections.
"The world is watching both the process and the content, to the final draft," said Tsvangirai.
"To the people of Zimbabwe I says it\’s up to you to determine the nature of our new constitution.
"I encourage Zimbabweans to resist any intimidation aimed at influencing the process. The nation will not forgive those who try to disrupt the process. Let us all unite and participate in the process. Our new constitution must and will be a lasting legacy."
Mugabe and Tsvangirai formed the powersharing government last year in the aftermath of a bloody presidential run-off election both to ease political tensions and to mend the economy as it buckled under the weight of the world\’s highest inflation rate.
The constitution-making drive has had several false starts including one time when rowdy supporters of Mugabe\’s party disrupted a meeting to choose committees to gather people\’s views.