There was a stampede yesterday as journalists and members of the public pushed into a small conference room, the set venue for the commission of inquiry public hearing on the August 1 killings.
Individuals began to arrive as early as 9am only to endure hours of waiting outside, while the commissioners deliberated on the intended procedures for the public hearing.
While an open venue was expected for a hearing of this magnitude, only 45 people were allowed into the small conference room at a lodge in the capital.
The commission, sworn in by President Emmerson Mnangagwa in September this year, has been tasked to enquire into the circumstances that led to the violence that occurred after the July harmonised elections.
The permanent secretary of the commission Virginia Mabhiza addressed members of the press towards lunch time, assuring them they would be allowed into the conference room at 1.30 pm.
“We had advised that the hearing would start early at 11 am. Our apologies, the commissioners had numerous documents to consider before the hearing,” she said.
There was chaos when Mabhiza told the rest of the camera crews to leave the conference except for the State media
Journalists enquired from the chairperson of the commission Kgalema Motlanthe why the rest of the media outlets were not allowed to attend, while this was a public inquiry.
“ZBC journalists have been coming in here while we have been waiting outside. With all due respect Mr Chair(person), is not this supposed to be a public hearing?” enquired one journalist.
“We would love all the sessions to be open for everyone, but as you can see, the cameras are obstructing the people who are supposed to be testifying,” said Motlante, before he allowed all the camera personnel to at least occupy the back panel.
The first two witnesses to testify during the hearing both pointed to members of Chamisa’s MDC as the perpetrators of the violence in which at least six people died, in the aftermath of this year’s elections.
Patricia Ruzawe from Goromonzi, who took part in the election processes as an observer said she witnessed the violence first hand when she arrived in Harare on August 1.
Nyasha Zenda, a Zanu PF councillor for Ward 6 in Harare also gave a testimony on how he was tipped that his personal bus which he had used during the campaign was about to be burnt by MDC youths.
Meanwhile, the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa) issued a statement yesterday condemning the commission for barring private media from covering the hearing.
“This is disconcerting as it is an enquiry that is supposed to draw participation from the public. Particularly worrying is that trend in such conduct by institutions established by the government and public officials,” said Misa.