THE final draft of Zimbabwe's new constitution has been finalised and needs "just a polish" before it can be sent to President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, says the minister involved in the process.
Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Eric Matinenga said on Wednesday that the new constitution was nearly ready for the leaders' approval.
"Everything has been agreed on and it is safe for me to say the principals should expect the document anytime from now," Mr Matinenga said.
Mr Matinenga, Finance Minister Tendai Biti and other MPs from Mr Mugabe's Zanu (PF) and the two Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) factions constitute the management committee of parliament's select committee on the new constitution, Copac. Mr Biti said this week that "negotiations on the new constitution had gone very well".
Mr Matinenga said all that was left was for Copac to "polish the document". Another Copac official said the document was at the proof-reading stage and would be ready "in the next few days".
Copac this week also invited interested companies to bid for the printing of the constitution.
The compromise government of national unity was set up following disputed elections in 2008. Part of the agreement was for Zimbabwe to write a new, inclusive constitution. The drawn-out consultation process has been fractious and often violent.
The regional Southern African Development Community tasked SA's President Jacob Zuma with overseeing the implementation of all elements of the 2008 Global Political Agreement, including the new constitution, to culminate in elections for a democratically elected government.
Mr Zuma's visit to Zimbabwe for final negotiations paving the way for fresh elections - likely to take place next year, according to the MDC and political analysts - has repeatedly been delayed by fresh constitutional demands by Mr Mugabe's Zanu (PF).
As Copac said it had finalised the new constitution, the country's parliament, including the upper chamber, this week passed a new human rights bill. It also gave the nod to the Electoral Amendment Bill after heated debate over a statute ruling out votes by millions of Zimbabweans living outside the country.
MDC MPs said the election law in its current form had shortfalls and provisions that favoured Zanu (PF) in the election.
Zanu (PF) Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa has been adamant on banning diaspora votes, saying: "One of the fundamental elements of democracy is that the voters must be accessible to all those candidates who want to seek office. They must be accessible to all not only to a few."