The drama surrounding Saturday’s Parliament spectacle — where hundreds of rowdy Zanu PF supporters stormed the august House and beat up legislators and journalists — boggles the mind.
This kind of lawlessness surprised even the police who later said they did not deploy a lot of manpower because they did not find any reason to do so at a respectable place like the House of Assembly.
The police did not expect anybody would dare come into the centre of the capital city, storm Parliament building and virtually turn the House into a beerhall, boxing arena or a militia camp where political opponents are tortured.
The issue under debate, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill, has become an emotive matter because there is a political party that is fighting tooth and nail to have its past crimes swept under the carpet. Zanu PF has made its position clear — that the Human Rights Commission should not be allowed to probe political crimes committed prior to 2009.
The party’s post-independence history is riddled with bullets of crime, including murder. What they demand and why an MP was dragged by his necktie and pummelled on Saturday is that the Gukurahundi “moment of madness”, the Murambatsvina human rights disaster and the 2008 electoral murders be all forgotten.
The determination to cover their bloody past is measured by the extent the party can go to muzzle the Human Rights Commission. That is why perhaps the police were equally surprised.
Police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau said: “We believe that responsible people go to Parliament because whatever takes place there is different from a demonstration.
People go to Parliament to debate on Bills and we do not expect to deploy a lot of policemen there.”
The hooligans — who have clearly been misled about how best to keep the rights commission off their dirty past — failed to realise that while they may have succeeded in scuttling debate on the issue, there are people elsewhere in the country that have debated the issue and whose views have been recorded and would be considered at the end of the day.
Chairperson of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs Douglas Mwonzora, whose committee is collecting public views on the Human Rights Commission Bill together with Misheck Marava’s Thematic Committee on Human Rights, said the hooligans that have disrupted meetings in Chinhoyi, Masvingo, Mutare and Harare were ignorant and misguided elements fighting a losing battle.
“Unfortunately for the sponsored hooligans, some serious people made submissions like that they wanted human rights abuses that happened from 1980 during the Gukurahundi era, Operation Murambatsvina era and the 2008 elections to be investigated, while they were busy making noise,” Mwonzora said, adding the views that had been recorded would be heard.
But Saturday’s Parly drama is not without precedent. This is exactly the same kind of behaviour Zimbabwe witnessed in November 2000 in virtually the same building — inside the Supreme Court of Zimbabwe.
War veterans’ leader Joseph Chinotimba led a group that invaded the Supreme Court building to start what was to become the effective purge of the judiciary, removing judges who were regarded as being unfavourable towards the so-called fast-track land reform programme.
They stormed the Supreme Court which was in session, jumped on top of the judges’ bench where they danced, singing “revolutionary” songs and demanding the departure of white judges.
That is how far certain political parties can go when they decide to tear apart the rule of law.
Our police should not be surprised but always be prepared wherever emotive political issues are at the fore – unless, of course, they are part of the grand plan and conveniently absent themselves, which we do not wish to believe.