The chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Douglas Mwonzora, said Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri must resign following the mayhem that rocked Parliament building at the weekend.
Police failed to contain the violence and were reduced to mere spectators as the handful of riot police present was overwhelmingly outnumbered by the hundreds of riotous Zanu PF supporters. The violence occurred during public hearings on the Human Rights Commission Bill inside Parliament building.
Mobs of Zanu PF supporters stormed the august House, chanting the party’s liberation war songs and slogans, beating up journalists and MPs and intimidating the chairman of the Thematic Committee on Human Rights, Zaka Senator Misheck Marava.
The thugs manhandled and assaulted Hwange Central MP Brian Tshuma (MDC-T) and almost mistakenly beat up their own, Makonde MP Risipa Kapesa (Zanu PF) before pouncing on Standard
reporter Nqaba Matshazi and Financial Gazette reporter Levi Mukarati, while another group outside Parliament pounced on NewsDay photojournalist Aaron Ufumeli.
“We call upon Chihuri to resign because he failed Parliament and we also want to tell those who have resorted to disruption of the public hearings that they have themselves to blame if what they wanted to see in the Bill is not captured,” said Mwonzora.
“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,” he said.
Mwonzora said while some engaged in unruly acts in a bid to disrupt the hearings, others handed in written submissions or commented, and their views would be heard.
Mwonzora’s committee on Justice and Legal Affairs is jointly collecting public views on human rights.
He said the two committees would make a report and hand over to the House evidence gathered from those who submitted their contributions.
Asked to comment on why they failed to provide adequate security at the public hearings, Harare police spokesperson Inspector James Sabau said they never anticipated the disturbances.
“Parliament authorities are the only ones who can comment on whatever happened in Parliament because we cannot comment on that. 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,” Sabau said.
Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma said he could not comment because the chairmen of the two committees conducting the public hearings had not made formal reports to Parliament concerning the violence.
Marava said despite the disturbances, the committee recorded 80% success in gathering evidence because people in Gwanda, Gweru, Bulawayo and even Chinhoyi contributed immensely, except for Harare, Masvingo and Mutare where proceedings were marred by violence.
“In Mutare, the hooligans were transported to the venue by Mupfumi buses and in Harare these were people from Mbare who were bussed in by kombis,” Marava said.
The Bill is currently before the Parliamentary Legal Committee for scrutiny of its constitutionality and heated debate is expected during its second reading stage.