Zimbabwe: Minister in Near Fist Fight in the UK

JUSTICE and Legal Affairs minister, Patrick Chinamasa caused a storm at a reception in London last week when he engaged in a verbal spat with outspoken British MP, Kate Hoey.

Chinamasa, who is part of a three member cabinet re-engagement committee, charged towards Hoey and had to be restrained, The Standard was told yesterday.

This paper was told that Chinamasa lunged at Hoey at a reception organised by the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office.

In written responses, Hoey said that she was "not surprised by his attitude entirely in keeping with what I would expect from Zanu PF".

"I mentioned how shocking it was that Beatrice Mtetwa had been locked up for several days and presumably that this was meant to be a signal to the most vulnerable Zimbabwean that if this could happen to such a powerful international lawyer, then they would be treated even more terribly," Hoey said.

Mtetwa was granted bail on Monday following her arrest on March 17 for allegedly obstructing the course of justice.

Hoey said if "Chinamasa can behave so rudely and aggressively in full view of FCO officials and Ambassadors from governments around the world when he was a guest, how much worse his tyranny will be in rural area and the suburbs of Harare and Bulawayo where the CIO [Central Intelligence Organisation] agents, the police and armed forces are free to exercise untrammelled power".

The Labour MP added: "I welcome Sadc's increasingly robust role and particularly the role being played by President [Jacob]Zuma in working so hard to get free and fair elections."

Zuma is the Sadc-appointed mediator in the Zimbabwe political crisis. Efforts to get a comment from Chinamasa were fruitless as his mobile number was unavailable on Friday and yesterday.

Zimbabwe's Ambassador to the UK, Gabriel Machinga said yesterday that he was travelling and would return the call.

The alleged attack comes at a time the West has been working on re-engaging Zimbabwe after a decade of isolation following the political and economic crisis.

Chinamasa representing Zanu PF, Energy and Power Development minister Elton Mangoma (MDC-T) and Regional Integration minister Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga (MDC) were invited by the Friends of Zimbabwe for a meeting where the country's major donor countries were in attendance.

Donor countries that attended the meeting with the Zimbabwean delegation include Australia, Germany, Canada, Japan and Switzerland among others.

International, financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and international bodies such as the United Nations and its agencies such as the United Nations Development Programme were also represented.

This is not the first time that Chinamasa has been involved in a scuffle in public.

In 2004, he was floored by former Chimanimani MP, Roy Bennett. Bennett was later jailed for the assault.

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