Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, officially opening a new parliamentary session on Tuesday, denounced violence and called on legislators to promote national healing in his second such appeal for peace and tolerance in recent days.
But even as Mr. Mugabe spoke, suspected militants of his ZANU-PF party were said to have assaulted an independent journalist and a Harare city official of the former opposition Movement for Democratic Change outside Parliament.
President Mugabe urged legislators and political leaders in the country's troubled unity government to foster peace saying "a united and peaceful society" is indispensable in achieving national healing in Zimbabwe.
"Let's in unison say no to violence in all its manifestations," Mr. Mugabe declared.
Witnesses said freelance journalist Henry Chimbiri and Harare City Councilor Victor Chifodya of the MDC wing headed by Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai were assaulted by suspected ZANU-PF militants outside Parliament.
Chifodya was rushed to a Harare clinic with head injuries.
Mr. Mugabe said his power sharing partners have agreed "timelines" to the next national elections, but did not elaborate. On Friday he said elections must be held by March.
The president also told legislators that the controversial National Youth Service program, whose graduates in a youth militia aligned with ZANU-PF were closely associated with some of the deadliest election violence in 2008, would be reintroduced.
Noting that agriculture played a key role in the country's economic recovery but that banks were unwilling to lend to new farmers granted 99-year leases under land reform, Mr. Mugabe said the Land Reform Act must be revisited to remedy this.
Taking up the controversial subject of Marange diamonds, he said the government is working on a diamond policy and will table a bill to better regulate the sector.
This fourth parliamentary session seems likely to feature hot debate as Prime Minister Tsvangirai’s MDC formation says it intends to table security sector reform legislation.
President Mugabe and ZANU-PF have described the MDC's call for reform of the army, police and other security services as an attempt to sabotage national security.
ZANU-PF says only Defense Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa can lead debate on security reform, and that any such debate must take place in the Cabinet.
ZANU-PF Chief Whip Joram Gumbo told VOA Studio 7 reporter Blessing Zulu that the MDC must focus on issues that will contribute to national unity.
But Tsvangirai MDC lawmaker Settlement Chikwinya for Kwekwe-Mbizo said there is no going back on security sector reform, which the party considers essential to holding free and fair elections given interference by security forces in previous elections.