Scores of suspected Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU PF) youths and women in Mutare disrupted a public hearing that was convened by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs.
In the melee that ensued, the violent Zanu PF supporters assaulted MP Jessie Majome, the chairperson of the Committee. 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.
The Mutare meeting was being held at Beit Hall in Dangamvura area. About 500 citizens attended the consultative meeting organised by 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 the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and 14 other civil society organisation in September 2015. He also explained the public hearing process,” Tafara Moyana, a local Mutare resident said.
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 bussed 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 which are 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 benefitted 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.
“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 scrutinised 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.