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MP in punch-up with ministers in Zimbabwe's Parliament


CHINAMASA: Was floored by an irate Roy Bennett in Parliamet

Nyambuya's workers desert farm

By Staff Reporters

PARLIAMENT exploded into a boxing ring on Tuesday when opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) MP Roy Bennett floored, then kicked out at two Cabinet Ministers Patrick Chinamasa and Didymus Mutasa.

Bennett, speaking on Wednesday, refused to apologise but said it was "nothing to be proud of."

Some Zanu PF legislators, brandishing pistols, threatened to shoot Bennett during the brawl which started off when Justice Minister Chinamasa said Charleswood Estate which is owned by Bennett, and situated in Chimanimani, would not be struck off the government’s acquisition list for land resettlement.

In a statement laden with racial overtones, Chinamasa told Bennett: “Mr Bennett has not forgiven the government for acquiring his farm, but he forgets that his forefathers were thieves and murderers.”

This stung Bennett who rose from his seat and charged towards Chinamasa while shouting in Shona: “Unoda kundijairira iwewe! Unoda kuti ndiite sei? (You are really getting on my nerves; do you think I will let you get away with that?).

He then held Chinamasa by the collar, before wrestling him to the floor. But he was not finished. He then confronted Mutasa, the new Minister for Corruption, who had tried to come to Chinamasa’s aid, decking him with what looked like a jab, before other MPs held him back.

Mutasa, 69, said on Wednesday: "On the camera, it appears as though I was beaten but in fact I fell down trying to avoid the blow. I gave him a severe kick on his chest."

REACTION

"We are members of parliament from two different parties and we definitely don't agree on issues but we cannot go to the extent of fighting each other in the House," Joram Gumbo, Zanu PF chief whip.

"You need to have been in parliament to understand the magnitude of provocation that Bennett was subjected to. He has won something like four High Court decisions but Zanu PF has ignored those court decisions and proceeded to take away his farm," Nyathi said.

"He gets no protection from parliament, he gets no protection from the courts of law. So of course one understands that kind of reaction though of course it's totally unfortunate and the party regrets it," MDC Information and Publicity secrertary Paul Themba Nyathi

Bennett was later escorted out of Parliament by the Sergeant in Arms. When order was restored, Deputy Speaker Edna Madzongwe ejected youthful Kuwadzana MP Nelson Chamisa and Willias Madzimure of Kambuzuma for interjecting.

Zanu PF chief whip Joram Gumbo said parliament would set up a committee to look into the scuffles.

Gumbo said Bennett could be suspended from the house or fined if found guilty of contempt.

Zimbabwe’s Parliament has never witnessed physical fights between MPs, although legislators have threatened to beat each other up, notably Margaret Dongo who picked up verbal fights with a number of MPs on the Zanu PF benches in the mid 90s.

More recently, the MDC’s Priscilla Misihairabwi challenged the late war veterans leader and Makonde MP Chenjerai Hunzvi to a fight, taunting him: “I will dance on your head.”

On Tuesday night, the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, a pressure group calling for the restoration of law and order in Zimbabwe condemned the actions of both Chinamasa and Bennett as immature, urging restraint.

“Today's events are deplorable. Sadly this despicable occurrence only serves to demonstrate the extent to which the legislature has ceased to regard national issues with the solemnity they deserve. The two legislators’ behavior is a terrible example to the young people of this nation,” the group said in a statement.

“Parliament is not a wrestling ring but a platform to pursue peace, democracy and development. It is unfortunate that racial slurs were hurled at MP Bennett and equally unpalatable that he responded to this provocation through physical force.

“The Crisis Coalition calls upon the responsible authorities to investigate the matter in a professional, speedy and non-partisan manner.”

The MDC and several Western countries have criticised Zimbabwe's seizure of white-owned farms, but the ruling party says they are necessary to redress the ownership imbalances created by Britain's 1890's colonisation of the southern African state.
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