MEMBERS of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs were on Saturday forced to abort public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill in Bubi following disruptions by a group of residents believed to be Zanu PF supporters claiming the meeting was illegal.
About 30 rowdy villagers stormed Inyathi Training Centre where the meeting was being held, forcing the MPs to scurry for safety.
The villagers claimed the committee had not notified Matabeleland North governor Cain Mathema and Bubi MP Clifford Sibanda about the meeting.
The committee, led by Harare West MP (MDC-T) Jessie Majome and other development partners, the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust are on a countrywide tour to gather public input into the Bill. All the public meetings have been announced on radio, television and in national newspapers.
“We are not going to promote corruption — if you want people from Matabeleland North to give their views on the Bill then consult our governor Mathema and MP (Clifford) Sibanda,” a leader of the rowdy group who identified himself as Douglas Khoza, said.
“I am sorry that you came to the wrong place and if this has been the trend in what is happening at the Parliament of Zimbabwe, then you are misrepresenting us because the people who are here are not a sample of Matabeleland North, and if that is how you structured it in Parliament then you are cheating the people,” he added before he commandeered MPs and journalists to leave the venue.
The group also barred journalists from taking pictures of the clashes and ordered other villagers to leave.
Contacted for comment after the incident, Majome said: “This whole incident actually shows that some people still do not understand the role of Parliament and that the legislature can sit at any place other than Parliament by going around gathering views of the people.
“Disrupting a committee of Parliament from gathering views from people is tantamount to contempt of Parliament, especially given that there were other people who wanted the meeting to go on.”
Meanwhile, Majome said other public hearings in Rushinga and Gweru went on smoothly with contributors saying they wanted more time to present their views before the Bill is passed into law.
Some contributors said the Bill should have a clause to ensure securocrats were stopped from uttering political statements towards elections, adding ballot papers and voting slips should be printed transparently and have security features.
“We want electronic voting cards to avert situations where people cheat and vote several times,” Edison Mlambo, a Gweru resident, said.
Some questioned why the Bill was first passed in Senate before it went through the House of Assembly saying they were suspicious of the procedure.
Other issues that were raised were that voter registration should be computerised; ballot papers delivered timely at polling stations and that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should be fully funded by the fiscus to enhance its independence.
Members of the public proposed that ZEC commissioners should be selected by the electorate and not the Executive.