This follows similar disruptions at Mutare’s Queen Hall and Masvingo on Friday.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Bill is part of democratic reforms that Mugabe and Tsvangirai agreed to in 2008 when they signed a power-sharing agreement. Zanu (PF) favours elections this year, but Morgan Tsvangirai, leader of the Movement of Democratic Change (MDC-T) insists key political reforms must first be implemented.
Brian Tshuma, an MDC-T legislator for Hwange Central constituency was beaten up inside the senate chamber where the hearing was taking place while journalists Levy Mukarati (Financial Gazette), Tsvangirai Mukwazhi (Daily News), Nqaba Matshazi (The Standard), Aaron Ufumeli (Newsday), John Cassim (freelance photographer) were also beaten up by the mob.
More journalists from both the State and independent media were also forced to seek refuge in offices within the parliament building as Zanu (PF) supporters ran riot.
Most of the assailants were identified as commuter omnibus touts and vendors from the Harare’s biggest fruit and vegetable market, the Mbare Musika. The meeting was abandoned as a result of the skirmishes.
Tshuma, a member of the Justice and legal, parliamentary and constitutional affairs committee, met his fate when Zanu (PF) supporters who packed the senate chamber for the hearing noticed he had not been singing the national anthem.
“Zanu PF supporters accused me of not singing the national anthem when we were going through the introductory stages of the hearing. They grabbed me by my tie, my belt and some joined in and the next thing I was shoved outside the building. Some buttons from my shirt were torn off,” said Tshuma.
“Instead of helping the situation, police shoved me outside the building at the instigation of the vociferous Zanu (PF) supporters.”
Matshazi also related his experience. “I was also approached by Zanu (PF) supporters while inside the parliament building who accused me of not singing the national anthem. I denied that but they insisted on my leaving the parliament building.”
“Someone came from nowhere and beat me with a fist and more people joined in. I was grabbed by my jacket and kicked all over. They told me they did not care about human rights and they do not respect our newspapers which they said write lies about the country. They insulted me with all sorts of unprintable words and told me they only cared about President Mugabe and no-one else.”
Levy Mukarati also spoke about his ordeal.
“I was inside parliament for the hearing and was forced to move out when I noticed the security situation had degenerated,” said Mukarati. “When I was outside the building, one of the ladies who was inside identified me as among the journalists who had been inside and that’s when I was mobbed by more Zanu (PF) supporters who beat me up. I was saved by the police.”
Zanu (PF) supporters were already outside the parliament building as early as 7am when the public meeting had been set for 10 am.
Some 300 more tried for hours to force their way through the entrance of the parliament building as they sang and danced in praise of President Mugabe and in denouncing of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai and his party.
A dozen anti-riot police watched the situation unfold.
In Mutare war veterans in this eastern border city disrupted a hearing of the same bill. In Masvingo the hearing ended prematurely after Zanu (PF) activists also caused mayhem.
Members of the public that had gathered to give their submission started to question why the bill was read in english instead of using the vernacular that every can understand.
“The bill was read in English and we did not understand anything, we also do not understand what is human rights versus criminology,” said one Zanu Pf supporter.
Some members of the public were saying that it is not fair for the hearing to be read without accommodating the deaf.
Amongst members of the crowd was a visually impaired man who said the purpose of the meeting was not justified as he needed time to read and comprehend the details of the bill before making an informed contribution.
Commotion started when Zanu (PF) deputy secretary for information and publicity said the meeting should stop forthwith as there was consensus that they did not understand the bill.
“This meeting has to stop because everyone here is agreeing that we did not understand what was read, so we should leave,” said Samuriwo amid a wild cheers from a group of war veterans and Zanu (PF) supporters.
War vets and some Zanu (PF) youth started to sing songs accusing the Chairman Douglas Mwonzora of leading the committee which was waylaying people’s views.
The chair was forced to end the meeting prematurely after about 40 minutes into the proceedings as charging war vets and other Zanu-PF supporters broke into songs and dancing in front of the 13 delegates from the Parliament.
In an interview after the meeting Mwonzora said they have noted the submissions that have been made by the people of Mutare.
“Some expressed that they have not been made aware of the bill and some think that it’s a duplication of the constitution making process and they want the constitution to be released first.” They were definite submission that were made and one was that the bill is not supported and there was also a submission that the investigation of human rights must not only start in 2009 as envisaged by the bill but must go back to pre-colonial time,” said Mwonzora.