HARARE The final stage of public hearings on a new Constitution hit a rock in Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza as Zanu PF battled to regain lost ground through a spate of violent attacks on innocent residents; massive disruptions of the process; and a disregard for decency and civility.
In scenes depicting a clear desperation by the former ruling party, similar to what happened immediately after Robert Mugabe’s landmark loss to President Tsvangirai and the MDC in the March 2008 election, Zanu PF hired thugs who invaded the three major cities to sway public opinion, often violently, in its favour.
Where this proved difficult on Saturday and on Sunday, Zanu PF Copac team leaders came in handy, helping their party by simply staying away from duty. It was particularly unsettling in Bulawayo where Zanu PF incited Copac staff to down tools and sabotage the process.
In Chitungwiza and Harare, Zanu PF’s violent visitors attacked residents, many law-abiding MDC supporters, with logs, stones and machetes while on the way to the meeting places.
Inside the hearings, Copac team leaders openly failed to restrain rowdy Zanu PF supporters who recited tired and dud answers to thematic questions for a new Constitution. In Mabelreign on Sunday, for example, a Zanu PF villager bellowed: “We do not want dual citizenship...”
When a resident asked whether the former first lady, now late, Sally Mugabe, should have been stripped of her Ghanaian citizenship through marriage, a stand-off then arose, disrupting the proceedings as residents exchanged shouts and harsh words with the Zanu PF’s foreign legion. Police looked totally spineless to deal with the ensuing melee.
Elsewhere, smartly dressed men in dark glasses displayed guns in holsters strapped around their belts. Two of them even pulled out their weapons to silence the normally serene, suave and urbane residents on a Sunday morning.
Copac set in motion a national public hearing process as a first step towards a people-driven Constitution on 16 June. The work has been marred by a highly partisan, destructive and senseless intervention by Zanu PF in which that dying party sought to foist its moribund ideas onto the people and to socially engineer the outcome through intimidation, force and coercion.
After realising that it made insignificant gains on the ground, Zanu PF has now focussed its attention on the big cities -- the MDC strongholds -- to scuttle the last round of hearings. Zanu PF hired and ferried thousands of its most violent supporters into the three cities for this purpose.
When they realised that the task would still prove difficult, they forced in last minute changes to the programme insisting that there be only one meeting in every ward instead of the previously planned two. Residents, however, relented under protest -- only to face a fresh orgy of intimidation, confusion and violence.
There were skirmishes almost every where: at Mai Musodzi Hall in Mbare; Waterfalls, Budiriro, Glen View and Warren Park D, Epworth, Hatfield, at Msasa Creche, Hatfield, Greystone Park, Dzivaresekwa and in Chitungwiza.
The road to a new Constitution is key signpost of the MDC’s roadmap to a new Zimbabwe which was adopted at the party’s March 2006 national Congress. Although Zanu PF was forced to grundgingly accept that demand in September 2008, it decided to frustrate the process, initially by insisting on the Kariba Draft and later by trying to break the people’s backs to support its outdated and unpopular views.
The trick is an old one, having failed to see it through from March 2008 in the six months of serious violence never seen in Zimbabwe outside Matabeleland since independence. The 2008 violence claimed the lives of more than 500 and injured or displaced close to 11 000.
The latest assault on 76 outreach meetings in urban centres shows that Zanu PF is panicking at the irreversible and imminent reshaping of Zimbabwe.
“The actions by Zanu PF show that they are a leopard that has not changed its spots and its behaviour calls into question the manner in which the hearings for the new Constitution are being conducted,” MDC spokesman Hon Nelson Chamisa said.
“Zanu PF has once again shown that it is at war with the people. It is a party that is against the people of Zimbabwe expressing their views in a free and fair manner.”
“What they did in Bulawayo is deplorable. To influence drivers and technicians operating recording equipment to down their tools, ostensibly because they had not yet received their allowances is to show a serious sign of desperation.
“What is even more worrying is that these disturbances happened in the presence of police officers who took no action to restrain the culprits.”
Dzivarasekwa police arrested Yvonne Mashayamombe, an MDC information officer, for merely taking pictures of the people going to the venue for a public hearing. At the time of going to Press, nobody could clarify to the MDC why Ms Mashayamombe was arrested.
Three Crisis Coalition workers and three foreign diplomats were manhandled by Zanu PF supporters at Queen Elizabeth School in Harare while observing the hearings.
Zanu PF is furious at the MDC’s plans to effect greater checks on presidential powers, a move which could curb voterigging that in the past ignited violence.
The MDC wants a new legal framework that addresses the corruption and political patronage. “We agreed two years ago to have a people-driven Constitution. Zanu PF knows that their time is up and can only try to spite and frustrate a nation whose sentiments geared for real change,” said Hon Chamisa.
“The MDC will continue to review and assess the constitution making process to defend and consolidate the people’s struggle for a people-driven constitution. The people of Zimbabwe deserve a better life, food, jobs and education and this can only be achieved
through a people-driven Constitution.”
Copac did not help matters, either.
There were numerous instances in which it failed to show leadership leading to the abandonment of the process. “The people’s patience is running out.
The sooner Copac puts its house in order, the better for all of us,” said Hon Chamisa. More at MDC Home