An initial public hearing on legislation to overhaul Zimbabwe's electoral system had to be abandoned on Monday after alleged supporters of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF prevented those with opposing views from contributing to the discussion.
The hearing on the Electoral Amendment Bill now in Parliament in Marondera, capital of Mashonaland East province, started well but turned unpleasant when a representative of the Zimbabwe Election Violence Victims Association rose to give his views.
He was shouted down by ZANU-PF supporters who derided him, then chaos ensued as members of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change demanded that everyone be allowed to air his or her views, VOA's Irwin Chifera reported.
Legislator Innocent Gonese of the MDC formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, leading the proceeding with other members of the committee on constitutional affairs, tried unsuccessfully to calm the gathering. The lawmakers abandoned the meeting, telling people to submit their views in writing to the parliamentary committee.
Gonese said there was no way the meeting could have continued.
Political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube told VOA reporter Chris Gande that such disruptions are likely to continue as ZANU-PF does not want change.
ZANU-PF and two formations of the MDC are in government together, but expectations are that the country will hold a new round of national elections some time in 2012 and anticipation of the ballot has heightened political tensions.