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HomeNewsViolent rocks Parly public hearing in Mutare

Violent rocks Parly public hearing in Mutare

Violence broke out in Mutare, Thursday morning at a public hearing on electoral reforms when suspected Zanu PF supporters disrupted the proceedings  while threatening the chairing committee.

By Samuel Takawira & Lovejoy Mutongwiza

The disruptions had to prematurely end the hearings as the Justice Legal and Parliamentary Committee, chaired by Jessie Majome had to be whisked away as they sought cover in the aftermaths of the ugly scenes at Dangamvura community Hall.

The committee ,which is conducting the hearings after a petition from Independent election monitoring body, Election Resource Centre, received the full wrath of an angry Zanu PF mob , which  among other issues, accused the parliamentarians of being “biased” towards opposition parties’ representatives by continuously choosing them to air out their views.

Before the scuffle, a Zanu PF supporter had asked to be familiarized with the terms and conditions of the petition to which MDC-T legislature for Mutare, Innocent Gonese obliged and read out the agenda of the meeting as well as the petition terms.

However, trouble began when the ruling party members felt as if they were being chucked of the discussion as the chairperson of the committee, picked participants who were calling for electoral reforms from the Rita Makarawu led Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The angry mob took matters into their hands as they charged towards the parliamentarians’ table and started verbally attacking the lawmakers.

The violent ZANU PF supporters assaulted Jessie Majome, the Chairperson of the  Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs .

The assailants, mostly women charged at Majome and dragged her by the collar baying for her blood.

Majome has since reported the incident at Dangamvura police station.

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The disruption in Mutare follows  a similar incident at Nyamakwere Hotel in Mutoko on the 26th of October 2016.

Emirates

The Mutare meeting  which was being held at Beit Hall in Dangamvura saw about 500 citizens attending  the consultative meeting organized at the behest of the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and 14 other civic groups who petitioned Parliament to expedite electoral reforms.

“When the meeting started a question was raised by some members of the public on the agenda of the meeting. Hon Gonese (MDC-T Member of Parliament for Mutare Central constituency who is also a member of the committee) took the public through the petition which was submitted to Parliament by  ERC and 14 other civil society organisation in September 2015.

“He also explained the public hearing process,” Tafara Moyana,  Mutare resident narrated.

The skirmishes started after three members of the public had made contributions regarding electoral reforms, however, some suspected ZANU PF youths, alleged to have been bused by Dangamvura-Chikanga legislator, Esau Mupfumi interrupted the meeting.

“Three members of the public had contributed their views on the petition before the meeting was turned into chaos,” Moyana said.

The ERC is gravely concerned by the growing trend which is a clear indication of deliberate efforts to disrupt the ongoing public hearings aimed at soliciting public input towards alignment of Electoral Laws with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“It is the hope of the ERC that the success of this process would be a first step towards constitutionalism, credible elections and the creation of a level playing field in electoral processes. However, some political parties who have for a long time benefited from the status quo are clearly against these efforts of improving electoral processes in the country. Zimbabwean citizens must be allowed to freely express themselves and contribute towards the holding of free, fair and credible elections,” the ERC Executive Director, Tawanda Chimhini said.

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“Furthermore, the attacks on Parliamentarians must be condemned in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable and perpetrators must face the full wrath of the law.

Violence, whatever form, encroaches upon Section 52 (a) of the Constitution which guarantees the right of every person to freedom from all forms of violence from public and private sources. All citizens, state and non-state actors, have the right to participate and input their views on the electoral reform process freely without fear,” Chimhini fumed.

Parliamentary portfolio committee, having scrutinized a petition submitted to it by a local think tank and advocacy institution on democracy and elections, the ERC, in line with Section 149 (1) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, is conducting nationwide public hearings in Harare, Concession, Mutoko, Mutare, Bulawayo, Gwanda and Gweru to gather citizen views on the petition which calls for the extension of the right to vote to all eligible voters including the hospitalised, prisoners and those in the diaspora, independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), increased swift access to electoral justice, opening up voter education to stakeholders as a continuous process and enabling an accessible and transparent voter registration process.

Today’s meeting in Mutare was the fourth meeting after Harare, Concession and Mutoko.

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